Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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15 Gay Romances of the Renaissance Era

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9. William Shakespeare and Mr. WH

The first edition of the bard’s sonnets published with a dedication to Mr. WH, a mysterious figure many scholars and critics believe to be the “fair youth” referenced directly in the iambic pentameter. While these first 77 poems remain less sexually explicit that later words dedicated to Shakespeare’s presumably female mistress the “Dark Lady,” these early works include some of his most romantic passages of all time, including the famous Sonnet 18 (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day”). The work also contains the clearly homoerotic tendency of showcasing many of William’s more forbidden desires, such as his pining in Sonnet 20 for the “master mistress of my passion.” Is Mr. WH a young earl like William Herbert or Henry Wriothesley? Or maybe a commoner Shakespeare knew through publishing? This secret followed him into the house of death.

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