Reader comments · Sir Ian McKellen says “no doubt” Shakespeare was gay · PinkNews

Enter your email address to receive our daily LGBT news roundup

You're free to unsubscribe at any time.


Sir Ian McKellen says “no doubt” Shakespeare was gay

Post your comment

Comments on this article are now closed.

Reader comments

  1. Since when has having sex with men and women made someone gay?

    1. Yeah, my thoughts exactly! – ” Shakespeare obviously enjoyed sex with men as well as women.”

  2. “Shakespeare obviously enjoyed sex with men as well as women.”

    This makes Shakespeare gay?! Thank you for indulging in some bisexual erasure there pinknews…

  3. Surely sexuality is self-defined? It’s a bit pompous to make assertions about the sexuality of someone who died hundreds of years ago.

  4. Yes Ian all the men you like are gay its not a tired cliche

  5. There is a lot of complexity in Shakespeare’s plays, very unusual for the time. There was certainly a very un-English love of classical sexuality in many of his plays when it comes to subtext, which appeals on the surface to the bawdiness of Elizabethan audiences and which is what still speaks to audiences today.

    There has long been dispute about the authorship of the plays…some have pointed to Christopher Marlowe, amongst others, whose own amours were most often directed towards his own gender.

    Shakespeare though, hardly ever saw his own wife, which may fuel the debate. But so little is known of his life.

    But I think a learned actor with over 50 years experience with these texts knows a hell of a lot more about the nuances than some of the uptight commentators on this post

    1. But wasn’t ‘cross-dressing’ necessary in Elizabethan theatre due to the fact that women were not allowed to act on stage?

  6. gay, bisexual etc are all rather anachronistic- but given you could be burnt alive/hung/pulled apart by horses in medieval europe for getting up to any of it it was best to be circumspect- shakespeare was hardly going to write a love story involving Alexander and Hephaestion or a life of Edward II with the homosexual bits left in was he? Certainly there are hints, especially in the sonnets- but then given how little we know about his wife theres not much to prove him heterosexual either- and frankly does it really matter?

    1. a life of Edward II with the homosexual bits left in

      Marlowe did a pretty good job there, though.

  7. theotherone 6 Jan 2012, 12:07pm

    ‘Shakespeare obviously enjoyed sex with men as well as women.’

    no, that makes him bisexual.

    1. No – it simply makes Mckellen a fantasist.

      He has no way of knowing the sexual orientation of Shakespeare.

      I find it quite pathetic for the gay community to start making claims about the sexual orientations of famous figure from the distant past.

      1. I agree totally. McKellan’s use of the word “obviously” is ridiculous. It’s pure speculation and can never be stated definitively.

  8. Bisexual is certainly a more accurate description of Shakespeare than gay, but the homoeroticism is often unmistakeable in his work – In ‘As You Like It’ Rosalind not only disguises herself as a boy in order to ‘cure’ Orlando of his love for her, she adopts the name of ‘Ganymede, Jove’s own page’. Those in the know knew, as always.

    1. “Bisexual is certainly a more accurate description of Shakespeare than gay,”

      No it is not.

      It is simply speculation which cannot be proven or disproven.

      1. It is indeed more accurate, and your cited objection is irrelevant. I said the description of bisexual was more accurate, not that it was definitively provable. A state of affairs can be more likely than another without being clearly demonstrable.

        1. Riondo, you’re upsetting dAVID. You know how anyone that might have an opinion that differed to his causes him to get hysterical.

          1. *giggle*

          2. @Rob

            No, if anyone disagrees with dAVID – they do not have an opinion they are just wrong, or stupid, or an idiot …


            (now let me see, will dAVID now respond with an appreciation that I can acknowledge being wrong or some other trite comment?)

  9. Ian McKellen is an idiot for making these statements.

    He is engaging in speculation, which is 100% impossible to prove or disprove. Nothing more.

    Considering that there is even doubt about the true identity of Shakespeare, then for McKellen to state that Shakespeare was gay, as a point of fact, simply males him look rather sad, and grasping at straws for validation.

    Perhaps Shakespeare was a woman (Queen Elizabeth 1)?

  10. I would claim that the marriage of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth with the bitterness, recrimination, yet remaining loyalty is proof that Shakespeare was straight.

    This is as valid a comment as McKellens.

    And considering that Juliet was only 14 in Romeo and Juliet while enagged in a relationship with Romeo, then this is proof that Shakespeare was a pederast.

    And considering the fact that Shakespeare wrote so convincingly from the perspective of a black man in Othello, then this proves that he was black.

    Basically Shakespeare was gay and straight and bi and black and white with a dodgy regard for the very young.

    1. Tony Lambert 6 Jan 2012, 1:30pm

      For gods sake, let it go and grow up. How is it you over react to just every story here? Who cares what Mr. McKellen says, its an opinion. Big deal, everyone entitled to one, no need for the histrionics and a string of hissy fit comments!

      Some people really need to get a life.

      1. This this is bad, you should see the bull he’s coming out with on this thread

      2. Possibly because most of the stories are SOOOOOO idiotic.

        What kind of desperation could lead to someone thinking that an actor speculating about the sexual orientation of a playwright who has been dead for 400 years is in ANY way newsworthy or worth discussing.

        1. Really David. The point is, who cares.

        2. But dAVID, you’ve contributed more to this discussion than anyone else – ?

          1. Tony Lambert 6 Jan 2012, 4:47pm

            Empty vessels, most noise, etc etc.

            He’s an idiot with anger issues and an approval complex. Not unlike most 14 year olds.

  11. This story should probably have mentioned the sonnets! Doubters should give them a read before making up your mind, as they are written to two lovers – a man and a woman. Interpretation of the plays only backs this up, it’s not the only or even the primary evidence.

  12. does ANYONE in this thread know how to read?

    If you read ONLY McKellen’s quotes, at NO point does he say that Shakespeare was gay.

    All he says it that to him, it’s obvious that he did sleep “with men AS WELL AS WOMEN”. It’s in the damned quotes!

    This is one of those rare times that Pink News “pulls a Queerty” (inventing a headline that states something not in evidence in the associated article).

    1. Queerty is where Pink News ‘sources’; a lot of their stories in fact.

      1. You should go there, then.

        1. *FARTS*

          1. Says it all really. Such a paragon of intellect.

          2. Spanner1960 7 Jan 2012, 9:16am

            That’s the most intelligent thing you’ve said all month.

  13. Why is a man who was closeted for the best part of his adult life and career ‘outing’ dead playwrights just for something to say and without a stred of real evidence?
    And, as other contributors have mentioned – having sex with men and women – Ian, is called bisexual – Men who have sex with other men then pretend they don’t are worthless, self loathing, losers & Knights of acting.

    It’s a good job those in the media didn’t ‘Out’ you, McKellen back in the days of your self imposed shame.

    How easily one can loose respect for a public figure.

    1. McKellan came out in 1988, at a time when it was rather ill advised to do so, half way through his career, so he has not been “closeted for the best part of his… career “.

      He also did not say that Shakespeare was “gay” that was the Pink News headline.

  14. GingerlyColors 6 Jan 2012, 10:36pm

    An interesting opinion for the Twelveth Night. As Shakespeare lived centuries ago I think the jury will always be out regarding his private life but he should always be celebrated for his contribution to English culture and many Americans vote with their feet when visiting England and include Stratford On Avon in their itinery.

    1. The atmosphere of permissiveness that pervaded the reign of Elizabeth I was very likely a contributing factor in the production of one of the greatest literary and intellectual outpourings in Western Civilization.

      Recent research by Richard Florida and others has shown that social tolerance, and in particular tolerance of homosexuality, strongly correlates with creativity and economic growth.

      —– Richard Florida, Flight of the Creative Class (New York: Harper Collins 2005), pages 59-60

  15. Spanner1960 7 Jan 2012, 9:15am

    That woman’s a woman!”


  16. “Irons, who played a similarly sexually ambiguous role as Charles Ryder in the TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited, said he did not intend on playing the Antonio character as definitely gay.”

    Except the concept of ‘gay’ as we now understand it didn’t exist until this century.
    Academics have been fighting this battle for years- I genuinely doubt that Sir Ian McKellen has had any insight that has not already been the subject of at least 1500 thesis papers.

    1. Crompton wrote that the editor of the 1944 Variorum edition of the Sonnets summarized, in an appendix, the conflicting views of nearly forty commentators with regards to Shakespeare’s private life.

      —- Louis Crompton, Homosexuality & Civilization, (Harvard University Press, 2003) page 378

  17. The controversy surrounding Shakespeare’s private life began as early as 1780, and has yet to be resolved.

    Personally, and after reading Sonnet 20, in which Shakespeare describes his young friend as his “master-mistress, I tend to agree with Sir Ian McKellan.


  18. Richard M. Waugaman, M.D. 8 Jan 2012, 1:27pm

    More accurately, “Shakespeare” was both gay and straight– bisexual. An article about “The Bisexuality of Shakespeare’s Sonnets: Implications for de Vere’s Authorship” is available on

    1. Thank you, Dr. Waugaman.

      I wonder why would Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, compose under the pseudonym of William Shakespeare?

    2. After reading your “The Bisexuality of Shakespeare’s Sonnets: implications for de Vere Authorship”, I can see more clearly why Sir Ian McKellan would have no doubt about the Bard’s bisexuality.

      As you write in your conclusion:

      ‘When it comes to the sonnets, listen to the words of the eminent poet John Berryman:

      ‘One thing critics (who are) not themselves writers of poetry occasionally forget is that poetry is composed by actual human beings, and tracts of it are very closely about them. When Shakespeare wrote (in sonnet 144), “Two loves have I”, reader, he was not kidding’ (quoted in Giroux, 1982, p. 51).”

      Also, thanks for the link.. :)

      1. Richard M. Waugaman, M.D. 8 Jan 2012, 7:30pm

        Thanks for your comments, Jonpol. Since I published this article in a mainstream psychoanalytic journal a year ago, I have hoped it will be of interest to the gay and bisexual community. My impression is that evenly openly gay Shakespeare scholars have largely flinched when it comes to the sexuality of this author. The primary reason is probably that fully acknowledging this great author’s bisexuality makes his fit with Edward de Vere even closer, and bardolatry is a religion that will do anything before it will admit it has been worshipping a false god.

        1. A secondary reason might be that until the groundbreaking Kinsey Report was released in the mid-20th century, human sexuality was not deemed a proper subject for research or academic study…. outside of psychology or criminology.

          Academics risked damaging their careers if they devoted too much attention to the subject, wrote James Neill.

          As for your paper, and like you, I am stumped that a man like de Vere would allow his creative work to go down in history without his own name attached to it somehow. Such self-abnegation perplexes me.

          Delighted to have met you – and the Shakespeare Oxford Society – and I admire your “dedication to researching and honoring the true Bard”.

  19. And what about Christopher Marlowe ? I once read that he was gay and in his play version of Faust he makes the demon Mephistopheles fall in love with Faust and disguise himself as a woman the doctor asked the demon as a lover just to be with the doctor. It reminds me of Marcel Proust disguising his gay characters as women.

  20. Bisexual woman in Edinburgh 30 Jul 2012, 7:12pm

    If Shakespeare wasn’t queer, he was one hell of a queer ally with an interest in LGBT sexuality. Admittedly you get a lot of straight girls writing porn about gay boys these days, so who knows, but I’ve always assumed some variant of bisexuality.

    And never mind Merchant, has nobody read Coriolanus? I know we shouldn’t apply modern expressions such as “gay” to plays written hundreds of years ago, but that play is the gayest thing that ever gayed. With BDSM on top. It’s so gay that it’s been quietly left out of the teaching canon for years, just as no one wanted to admit for centuries that Shakespeare wrote all the violence in Titus Andronicus.

These comments are un-moderated and do not necessarily represent the views of PinkNews. If you believe that a comment is inappropriate or libellous, please contact us.