27 February 2010

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 20

This, probably the best known of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, is central to discussions of homosexuality in Shakespeare.  It is possibly addressed to a cross-dressed young man, or at least a young man with androgynous beauty.

'A woman's face, with Nature's own hand painted,
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false woman's fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hew all Hews in his controlling,
Which steals men's eyes, and women's souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prickt thee out for women's pleasure,
Mine be thy love, and thy love's use their treasure.'   
Proposed identifications of the young ‘master-mistress’ include Willie Hughes and Henry Wriothesley, to both of whom we will return.

1 comment:

  1. you must read the Late Great Mr. Shakespeare...a gender perspective on Shakespeare's oeuvre.

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