How does Shakespeare's treatment of human sexuality relate to the sexual conventions and language of his times? Pre-eminent Shakespearean critic Stanley Wells draws on historical and anecdotal sources to present an illuminating account of sexual behaviour in Shakespeare's time, particularly in Stratford-upon-Avon and London. He demonstrates what we know or can deduce of the sex lives of Shakespeare and members of his family. He also provides a fascinating account of depictions of sexuality in the poetry of the period and suggests that at the time Shakespeare was writing most of his non-dramatic verse a group of poets catered especially for readers with homoerotic tastes. The second part of Shakespeare, Sex, - and Love focuses on the variety of ways in which Shakespeare treats sexuality in his plays and at how he relates sexuality to love.
Wells shows that Shakespeare's attitude to sex developed over the course of his writing career, and devotes whole chapters to 'The Fun of Sex' - to how he raises laughter out of the matter of sex in both the language and the plotting of some of his comedies; portrayals of sexual desire; to Romeo and Juliet as the play in which Shakespeare focuses most centrally on issues relating to sex, love, and the relationship between them; to sexual jealousy, traced through four major plays; 'Sexual Experience'; and 'Whores and Saints'. A final chapter, 'Just Good Friends' examines Shakespeare's rendering of same-gender relationships.
Stanley Wells, described by Roy Hattersley as 'Our greatest authority on Shakespeare's life and work', is Honorary President of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Emeritus Professor of Shakespeare Studies of the University of Birmingham, and Honorary Emeritus Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Professor Wells has an extensive record of publications, mostly concerned with Shakespeare and his contemporaries. He was for nearly twenty years the editor of the
annual Shakespeare Survey, and writes for the TLS and many other publications. He has edited The New Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare Studies and is General Editor (with Gary Taylor) of The Complete Oxford Shakespeare and co-author of William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion. His recent books
include Shakespeare in the Theatre: An Anthology of Criticism; The Oxford Dictionary of Shakespeare; Looking for Sex in Shakespeare, and Is It True What They Say About Shakespeare?