Eighteenth-Century Homosexuality and the Republican Tradition
In the text of page 78 of William Blake’s manuscript epic-prophecy The Four Zoas, his chained rebel figure, Orc, is tempted by the tyrant Urizen to cease his opposition. Urizen offers Orc relief from his sufferings, a lure Orc easily scorns: “Thy Pity I contemn scatter thy snows elsewhere” (78:43). (Later he will succumb to other, subtler temptations.) The accompanying design shows a seemingly unrelated scene: A supine figure, inferentially Orc (his face, though roughly sketched, is Orc’s), but without fetters, lies in a posture that might suggest either the pains of torture or sexual ecstasy (figure 1.1). The area above Orc’s genitals has been heavily erased and penciled over, by Blake’s or another hand, but within the shading can be seen a kneeling figure with head above Orc’s groin. There are traces of what may be erect penises both between the kneeling figure’s legs and above Orc’s belly (the latter almost fully effaced). Most probably, then, the image shows two men in position for an act of fellation.
KeywordsMale Homosexual Male Homosexuality Paradise Lost Erect Penis Moral Hypocrisy
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