An Inclusive Litany

9/2/01

In a new volume, A Feminist Companion to Shakespeare, Theodora Jankowski, former English professor at the University of Washington, sets about to fill what she calls the "Lesbian void" in Shakespeare, matching prior discourse concerning male homosexuality in his works. Jankowski argues that The Merchant of Venice's Portia and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing were outright lesbians, and that Tatiana from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hermione from The Winter's Tale, and Cleopatra all engaged in same-sex relations. "If twenty-first century women—lesbian or straight—are routinely ignored by actual men, it is not surprising that early modern women, as well as literary characters, would be equally ignored," Jankowski says. "Early modern lesbians may be invisible simply because we have not yet become competently trained observers."

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