Shakespeare on Love and Lust

Maurice Charney

Columbia University Press

Shakespeare on Love and Lust

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Pub Date: May 2001

ISBN: 9780231104296

248 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $32.00£27.00

Pub Date: July 2002

ISBN: 9780231500067

248 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $31.99£27.00

Shakespeare on Love and Lust

Maurice Charney

Columbia University Press

The complex and sometimes contradictory expressions of love in Shakespeare's works—ranging from the serious to the absurd and back again—arise primarily from his dramatic and theatrical flair rather than from a unified philosophy of love. Untangling his witty, bawdy (and ambiguous) treatment of love, sex, and desire requires a sharp eye and a steady hand. In Shakespeare on Love and Lust, noted scholar Maurice Charney delves deeply into Shakespeare's rhetorical and thematic development of this largest of subjects to reveal what makes his plays and poems resonate with contemporary audiences. The paradigmatic star-crossed lovers of Romeo and Juliet, the comic confusions of couples wandering through the wood in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Othello's tragic jealousy, the homoerotic ways Shakespeare played with cross-dressing on the Elizabethan stage—Charney explores the world in which Shakespeare lived, and how it is reflected and transformed in the one he created.

While focusing primarily on desire between young lovers, Charney also explores themes of love in marriage (Brutus and Portia) and in same-sex pairings (Antonio and Sebastian). Against the conventions of Renaissance literature, Shakespeare qualified the Platonic view that true love transcends the physical. Instead, as Charney demonstrates, love in Shakespeare's work is almost always sexual as well as spiritual, and the full range of desire's dramatic possibilities is displayed.

Shakespeare on Love and Lust begins by considering the ways in which Shakespeare drew upon and satirized the conventions of Petrarchan Renaissance love poetry in plays like Romeo and Juliet, then explores how courtship is woven into the basic plot formula of the comedies. Next, Charney examines love in the tragedies and the enemies of love (Iago, for example). Later chapters cover the gender complications in such plays as Macbeth and The Taming of the Shrew as well as the homoerotic themes woven into many of the poems and plays. Charney concludes with a lively discussion of paradoxes and ambivalences about love expressed by Shakespeare's word play and sexual innuendoes.

Provides beginners with an informative and readable introduction to Shakespeare's handling of the themes of love and lust, and advanced scholars with thoughtful new material.

Choice

Places the era's genre conventions and language on the bare stage, spelling out the bawdy puns and the sexual euphemisms.... Alive with informed readings and provoking asides.

ForeWord

A fascinating overview of every aspect of love expressed in Shakespeare's works. Young love, married love, same-sex bonds, humorous or ribald, lusty or wistful... a delightful treatment of a subject that was played out on Shakespeare's stage in all its infinite variety.

The A List
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. Falling in Love: Conventions
2. Love Doctrine in the Comedies
3. Love Doctrine in the Problem Plays and Hamlet
4. Love Doctrine in the Tragedies
5. Enemies of Love
6. Gender Definitions
7. Homoerotic Discourses
8. Love and Lust: Sexual Wit
Afterword
Notes
Index

About the Author

Maurice Charney is Distinguished Professor of English at Rutgers University and the past president of the Shakespeare Association of America. He is the author or editor of twenty books, including How to Read Shakespeare, Style in Hamlet, Shakespeare's Roman Plays, Sexual Fiction, and All of Shakespeare (Columbia) and is a recipient of the Medal of the City of Tours.