Sunday, February 3, 2013

Idea Garage Sale: Wherefor Aren't Thou?

So I'm wondering - where are the queer literary takes on Shakespeare?

Recasting the culture's iconic literature to highlight the characters and concepts present, but not truly represented, in the original is a standard way of establishing a dialog between broad culture and individual experience, questioning received wisdom, or even just jolting modern audiences into seeing the classic work as relevant to modern day concerns. It doesn't often produce great literature (What do you think, is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead great? How about West Side Story?) but hey, what does? Nobody's surprised to see feminist glosses of Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet with interracial casts.

The queer thing just seems so obvious. Think of all the cross-dressing in the comedies! Think of all the female parts - great female parts, Lady Macbeth and Juliet and Beatrice - first played by prepubescent boys in drag! Think of the characterization of the Duke and Olivia in Twelfth Night! Twelfth Night's genderbending creates such violent emotional reversals in the final scene that I found it a useful work to reference in the lesbian western. Len speds part of her scant income on it first of all the unfamiliar Shakespeare plays available to her in the bookstores of San Antonio because of the extended cross-dressing, hoping Viola's story will give her useful hints. She's disappointed in that; but it enables her to have an illuminating conversation with Di, so her money is not wasted.

But shouldn't there be, somewhere, a text exploring the situation with the possibility of same-sex pair-bonding not assumed away by magic hand-waving?

Where is the queer version of Romeo and Juliet? I can't believe there isn't one.

Maybe they exist and can't find publishers due to the continued squeamishness of the industry, or distaste for the ways the news media can be expected to react to them. If so, and someone reading this is the author of such a thing, listen up: This is the age of the niche market. If you can't get it over the transom to the mainstream houses, look farther.

Stupider concepts have seen print.

But for pity's sake, do it well.

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