John Stubbs

All For Love

Shakespeare, Sex, and Love

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Oxford University Press 282pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

That Shakespeare’s works are preoccupied with love and sex, the relationship between the two and their often tragic consequences, is not a revelation. This is not to say, however, that the sexual content of the plays and poems has lost its power to shock or engage. It is a cliché, but it does seem reasonable to think that audiences in five hundred years’ time – in whatever form the theatre then exists – will still be gripped by the annihilating force of Othello’s jealousy, and still empathise with Romeo’s passion for Juliet. The complex and vulnerable emotions of Juliet, Desdemona and Ophelia are also likely to be of more than historical interest. Readers of poetry will still be both mesmerised and dismayed by the sonnets’ slide from the celebration of a beloved to injury and self-loathing.

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