Was William Shakespeare Bisexual or Pansexual?

Jack Molay's picture

In a new paper Professor Sir Stanley Wells and Dr Paul Edmonson have argued that the great bard, William Shakespeare, was bisexual.

Shakespeare scholars have for a long time known that some of his romantic sonnets were written about one (or several) men, but the term that has normally been used to describe these relationships is "homosexual".

Wells and Edmonson, however, argues that since other sonnets are adressed to women and Shakespeare was a married man with children, it is better to describe him as bisexual.

I would argue that it makes much more to classify him as "pansexual" or "polysexual":

Pansexuality refers to as sexual, romantic or emotional attraction towards people regardless of their sex or gender identity. Polysexuality refers to an attraction to multiple – but not necessarily all – genders.

Some  of the sonnets were clearly about Henry Wriothesley, the third Earl of Southampton.

As I have documented in my article "William Shakespeare’s Love for a Transfeminine Crossdreamer"Wriothesley was some shade of transgender, as in a transfeminine man, a nonbinary person or a trans woman. 

Modern terms does not always fit previous epochs, but there can be no doubt that Shakespeare describes the Earl's female nature in Sonnet 20. There is also a painitng presenting the Earl as a woman (above).

Here's a modern translation of Sonnet 20:

Your face is more beautiful than a woman’s because it’s been painted by nature and not artificially. You are both master and mistress of my passion. You have the gentle heart of a woman but without the fickleness characteristic of women. Your eyes, that light up the very object that they look on, are brighter than theirs but without their shallow flirtatiousness. You have all the best qualities a man could have. All other men look to you as a model: you catch the eye of men and you amaze women. Nature first intended you as a woman, but as she was making you, she fell madly in love with you and, by adding something, deprived me of you; by adding one thing she made you unattainable to me. But since she equipped you for the pleasure of women, let me have your love and them your body.

More about Sonnet XX and Shakespeare's love for a trans person here.

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