Identity and Experience: The Binaries of The Sonnets


  • Hannah Cole


Building upon other theorists' analyses of a queer presence in Shakespeare, this paper considers the relationship between poet and muse. If viewed as an early representation of fluidity, the poetic voice within the sonnets become a vehicle for gender exploration as well as free flowing sexuality and sexual orientation. Paying special attention to the constantly shifting gender of the sonnets, the poet and the muses are able to exist on a spectrum. The absence of a definite label, the allowance to just exist as queer without qualifier, brings Shakespeare's collection forward and within modern considerations of self-exploration. It is exactly the lack of concrete identity that draws away from the insatiable urge to label queerness. By analyzing a selection of sonnets, this paper aims to explore both vocabulary and structure as they apply to the spectrum of identity and infatuation the sonnets' speaker experiences. Allowing identity to stand for expansive possibility rather than binding categorization, this exploration reconsiders the power dynamic at play within Shakespeare's sonnets and how it challenges the accepted gender binary.