Culture Feature

A Brief History of Shakespeare's Possible Bisexuality

Recent research suggests now, more assuredly than ever before, that the Bard wasn't straight.

What do cuffed jeans, bob haircuts, septum piercings, the song "Sweater Weather" by the Neighborhood, and Shakespeare have in common? They're all tenets of bisexual culture.

Yes, you read that right: William Shakespeare, inarguably the greatest English-language writer of all time, has been inducted into bisexual culture—a celebration of things that are generally thought to be affiliated with, in one way or another, people who are bisexual. Speculation surrounding Shakespeare's sexuality is nothing new, but recent evidence proves that the English playwright was almost definitely not straight.

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Trueself

​Shakespeare's Dicks and Vonnegut's Farts: Teaching Literature in the Time of COVID-19

Or, One Teacher's Confessions About "Remote Learning": I Don't Care Anymore

Design Applause

Do you spend your nights sheltering-in-place reading Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants?"

Are you moved by the irony of Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" while you gaze at spring out the window? What role does Edgar Allan Poe's Gothicism play in your quarantine experience? For the two dozen college freshmen I'm assigned to teach via "remote learning" in New York City, those questions affect their studies, their grade in my course, and how they spend their hours during the week. What I can't tell them is this: It doesn't matter. At best, it will temporarily distract you during this time of crisis, but ultimately your memory and ability to process information is compromised because your brain functions differently during a crisis.

Additionally, some of my students' families are sick. Some of them don't have stable access to an Internet connection or even a working computer. They complete their work on their phones, emailing me their apologies when it's riddled with typos. Some of them, most frighteningly, have barely sent word that they're even okay.


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Kids these days are up to a lot of things.

Saving the planet, running businesses, starting social movements... It's fair that we'd all be concerned for their well-being. Fortunately, the Internet has come through with a handful of codes and cheat sheets that you can use to decipher what your child is really getting up to online.


Astrology

BTS

(Timothée) Chalamet

Decolonization

(Edgar Allan) Poe

Financial Crisis (2008)

Guinea Pigs

Hamlet

Intersectional Feminism

Julio-Claudians

Kingdom Hearts

Love, Simon

Molecular Biology

Naruto

Oklahoma

Pop-Punk

The Q'uran

Radical Liberalism

Stew

Tide Pods

Unions

(Two Gentlemen of) Verona

Writing

X Factor Auditions


(The New York) Yankees

Z


The truth is that these memes are more about Boomers and Gen X'ers than they do about kids these days. We all know that older generations spend more time than anyone leaving angry comments on Facebook pages, and they're the ones who worry relentlessly about the Internet when maybe they should have been worrying about climate change or gun violence. But hey, as long as your kid isn't texting about communism, everything's going to be just fine.

Now, please, let's all get off the Internet.

Arts

Watch Shakespeare as it was intended. Watch it drunk.

REVIEW | New York Shakespeare Exchange return with their ridiculously fun boozy, bardy pub crawl series: ShakesBEER

When people start talking Shakespeare its easy to conjure up the image of a boring evening. Dry, desiccated actors, performing dry, desiccated words in a dry desiccated room. Or worse still, reluctant schoolchildren murdering their way through verse that they won't understand properly for another ten years. But it's easy to forget that Shakespeare, in his era, was considered to be a pretty good time. Seventeenth century theatres were boozy, smelly places constantly being threatened with closure for being too degenerate. The saintly reverence we now have for Shakespeare is a relatively new construct. It's unlikely we'll ever be able to completely recapture what it was to see a Shakespeare play in his day, but New York Shakespeare Exchange might come closer than most with their ShakesBeer Pub Crawl.

The premise of ShakesBeer is simple. Four bars. Four drinks. Four Shakespeare scenes. You arrive at the first venue, you are given a map and four drink tokens. Company director Ross Williams makes a quick speech, and you are encouraged to drink. You begin drinking. Suddenly, a gong sounds, and a Shakespeare scene begins. It is performed in and among the crowd, or on top of the bar, using the space to its fullest. The scene ends, everyone cheers "Huzzah!", and you finish your drinks before following the map to the next bar. You order another drink, there is another Shakespeare scene, it finishes, huzzahs, finish drinks, next bar. Repeat this process until you have seen four scenes.

Guerilla photos of the event

It really is a fantastic day out. The whole process takes about three hours, which is about the pace most people can consume four drinks. The experience has a wonderfully Bohemian feel to it. Decadent, yet classy. The bars range from classic dives to more upscale joints, but the quality of experience is universal throughout. Performed on this occasion were scenes from Measure for Measure, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, and a scene titled ShakesBeer Mash-up: The Art of the Pickup, featuring characters and lines from a few different plays. Each scene ran ten - fifteen minutes or so, leaving plenty of room to socialize and drink, before and after.

"William Shakespeare would most definitely approve"

Starring in Measure for Measure (Directed by Cristina Lundy at Parkside Lounge) were Benjamin DeCamp Cole, Jay Ben Markson, and Kathryn Metzger. In true Shakesperean fashion we were dealing with lewd accusations of philandery brought by the nebbish against the hedonish. Much fun was had with constables barking at members of the audience. At Mama's Bar we saw Rosalind (Melissa Carlile-Price) and Orlando (Imran Sheikh) performing their gender confused flirtation from As You lIke It, standing atop table and chairs. Directed by Corey Atkins, the pair's chemistry was quirky and undeniable, as was their capacity for light improv.

Guerilla photos of the event

Moving to Croxley's Ale House, we saw Sir Toby, Maria and Sir Andrew (Of Twelfth Night Fame) discussing the process of love. Benjamin DeCamp Cole, and Jay Ben Markson returned (to thrilled applause), joined by Sarah Kinsey (to further applause). Under Liz Thaler's direction they capered, caroused, and set the room to revels. Finally, at the Donnybrook, The Art of the Pickup played out featuring Benjamin DeCamp Cole, Kathryn Metzger, Melissa Carlile-Price, Imran Sheikh, and Sarah Kinsey. Directed by Nathaniel P Claridad, this scene featured several of Shakespeare's lovers tindering and flirting their way amusingly through the bar, and each other.

If you are in need of a beer and play, then this is an event that is most certainly for you. The acting is excellent, on par with NYSX's MainStage productions. The atmosphere is fun as all hell. The locales are well chosen and welcoming establishments (and able to deal with fifty people ordering drinks all at once with remarkable patience). All in all, this is just a great, boozy, old time, which mixes the best of drunken squalor with the highest of art. William Shakespeare would most definitely approve.

Arts

Feminist, rock and roll Shakespeare with 'Hamlet Isn't Dead'

Meet Hal: Middle Age England's all new rock and roll queen

Photo by Kevin Johnsrud

Rock and roll, feminist Shakespeare. That's what's on sale now from NYC indie-theatre company Hamlet Isn't Dead. In their latest daring staging of Henry IV (parts one and two combined and cut into a two hour amalgam of both plays) we get live rock music, a flower-power/mod/punk aesthetic, and a female Prince Hal. As with every bold Shakespeare re-imagining there is the risk of the aesthetic overshadowing the meat of the play. However, what we see here is a striking take on the material that lends it life, vigor, and a blistering pace that keeps the audience on the edge of their seat.

Marie Claire Roussel is our female Prince. She starts her journey through the play in a torn Blondie tee, spray painting her name on a cape, and ends it in a bespoke white leather jacket, wearing the crown of England. Roussel's work throughout the play is fascinating. She avoids the temptation to eschew vulnerability in the part, instead allowing Hal's youthful brashness to inform a confident, yet insecure, tomboy character. When matched against Kevin Percival's Falstaff and his leather trench-coated, untempered bacchanalia, we are able to see the character's growth as born out of a feminine character struggling to embody masculine ideals. Her punk-to-pomp journey is both endearing and exciting, and gives the play an almost John Hughes feel.

Kevin PercivalPhoto by Kevin Johnsrud

Speaking of Falstaff, Percival's work here is blindingly good, particularly for someone as obviously young as he is. While the obvious fat-suit padding under his costume feels a little cartoonish, it is the only thing about the character that is so. The appendages-to-the-wall performance that Percival gives fills the Wesbeth performance space to bursting point. Similarly, Isaac Miller as Hotspur exudes angst and frustration at a rate only measurable by scientific instruments. He makes an excellent, and sympathetic villain. Match that up with the understated demurity of James Swanson's King Henry, a game company of fellow players, and back them up with a rocking band (John Mahaffey, Linus Ignatius, Derek Spaldo), and you have quite the crew here.

Director Megan Mahaffey's tireless work shows through in this production. She builds the show around aesthetic, but never lets style overtake substance. Her dramaturgical work is ferocious. This is a brisk, brisk cut of the two plays. A purist might faint at it, however its efficacy cannot be ignored. Not a plot point gets missed, all major character beats are left intact, and the play moves brilliantly. The only issue with it as a cut falls in the structural department. Henry IV Part One effectively becomes Act One of the play, and Part Two, Act Two. The overall arc of the play works, but the tonal shift between acts is jarring. Music helps smooth this over, but an unfortunate casualty is the now less satisfying conclusion to Falstaff's journey.

These niggles aside, Hamlet Isn't Dead's Henry IV is a rocking good time. The take is clear, the music is awesome, and the performances excel far beyond what is often expected of independent Shakespeare productions in the city. Roussel is a fantastic Hal, Percival a buoyant Falstaff, and Swanson a princely King Henry. For the Shakespeare fan, and the regular theatre-goer alike, this is a show to see.