Issue 4.2

Please Ask, Please Tell: On Shakespeare’s Bawdy

Joseph Gamble


It’s easy to spot the homophobia of lexicographer Eric Partridge’s hybrid essay-glossary, Shakespeare’s Bawdy (1947).[1] Others before him would have had more to say about “Shakespeare’s attitude towards sex,” Partridge claims, “if Shakespearean criticism had not so largely been in the hands of academics and cranks” (xi). “As I am neither pederast nor pedant,” Partridge continues, “I may be able to throw some light upon a neglected, yet very important, aspect of Shakespeare’s character and art” (xii). Should we not have understood him clearly enough, Partridge goes on to state flatly how straight he is. “Like most other heterosexual persons,” he writes,

I believe the charge against Shakespeare; that he was a homosexual; to be, in the legal sense, ‘trivial’: at worst, ‘the case is not proven’; at...

The Labors of Nicholas Rowe

M.L. Stapleton


As adjunct to my work on the New Variorum Julius Caesar, I’ve embarked on another project, an account of the three Shakespeare editions that the playwright, poet, classicist, and translator Nicholas Rowe prepared for the powerful London publisher Jacob Tonson (1709, 1710, 1714). Rowe is probably best known for a triumvirate of plays that a previous generation of male critics dismissed as “she-tragedies”: The Fair Penitent (1702), The Tragedy of Jane Shore (1714), and The Tragedy of Lady Jane Grey (1715). Like his predecessor Thomas Heywood, Rowe’s interest in women as important components of his drama and corresponding theatre audience extended to his editorial practices. Yet commentators have not noticed this ligature or have implied instead—anachronistically—that he lacked gender sensitivity, perhaps to discredit him as an editor. In his innovation of providing the dramatis personae at the beginning of each Shakespeare play, he failed, it seems, to integrate the male and female roles,...