Author (Your Name)

Leigh Bullion, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. English Dept.




William Shakespeare’s plays cover an array of topics focused on sexuality, from gender reversal to adultery to beastiality. But perhaps the most consistent and emphasized topic is homoeroticism.This focus on homoeroticism proceeds from the prohibition of women on the English stage and the subsequent female roles young boys would play. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, and Twelfth Night each present different representations of homoeroticism yet complement each other. A Midsummer Night’s Dream focuses on the erotic potential of unrestrained desire and the tense relationship between female amity and dominating patriarchal and heterosexual interests. As You Like It also involves female amity disrupted by heterosexual love, but Rosalind’s cross-dressing and a homoerotic man-boy relationship also complicate conventional heterosexual desires. Twelfth Night centers on cross-dressing as well, but includes subplots of male amity and presents what we might call a prototype for a homosexual identity. In this paper, I look at these texts in conjunction with film adaptations of these plays. The similar issues of the plays, with their concerns of social structure, cross-dressing, and female amity, made me interested in the different effects of the various homoerotic issues in the texts. Above all, the plays’ investment in heteronormative resolutions—with as many as four heterosexual marriages at the end of one play—compelled me to question the purpose of establishing homoerotic desires so firmly. By analyzing contemporary film to read against the original text, I hope to see gaps in the text that open up new possibilities for questioning the heteronormative endings of the plays.


sexuality, adultery, beastiality, homoeroticism, heteronormative