Anxiously Emergent Lesbian Erotics

  • Denise A. Walen
Part of the Early Modern Cultural Studies book series (EMCSS)


As chapter 2 demonstrated, early modern playwrights used cross-dressing as a convenient strategy when presenting images of female homoeroticism in drama. However, some scholars dismiss the cross-dressed character as a site of homoerotic investment. In his influential text, Sodometries, Jonathan Goldberg argued that homosexuality is not located in dramatic transvestism since homosexual tendencies are not acquired merely by a character’s appropriation of opposite-gender clothing. Goldberg proposes that models of friendship and the discourse on sodomy are more useful sites of investigation—that Marlowe’s Edward II has more to offer than As You Like It or Twelfth Night, or at least that one should focus critical attention on the relationship of Rosalind and Celia rather than Rosalind and Phebe.1 If one looks for sexual identities, then Goldberg is correct; however, if one investigates sexual representations a broader field of inquiry emerges than Goldberg’s theory suggests. For, while early modern playwrights did construct characters who might be considered to have a homosexual inclination like Emilia in The Two Noble Kinsmen, they more often represented homoerotic desires or homo-erotic tensions between characters without being constrained by peremptory qualifications of a character’s sexual identity.


Female Character Passionate Lover Homosexual Inclination Coarse Humor Female Homoeroticism 
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© Denise A. Walen 2005

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  • Denise A. Walen

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