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Germans gay about sexy Shakespeare sonnets

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Photo: DPA
08:37 CET+01:00
To be sexy or not to be sexy? That will be the main question this weekend, as the German Shakespeare Society convenes to explore the immortal bard's racy homoerotic sonnets.

The two-day conference in Weimar will focus on erotic and sexual allusions – chiefly directed to another man – in William Shakespeare's sonnets, said Tobias Döring, president of the German Shakespeare Society.

More than a hundred literary enthusiasts and experts will use the collection of 154 sonnets by the English poet and playwright – many of which have been interpreted as declarations of adoration for a male lover – as starting point for discussion on modern sexuality and sexual orientation.

According to Döring, the explicit homosexual content of Shakespeare's sonnets – first printed in English in 1609 – meant that they were at first ignored by literary critics, and when finally acknowledged in the 18th century, widely viewed with disdain.

Yet after the first printed translation of the works appeared in German in 1826, the sonnets came to play and important role in 19th century gay literature, and are now among the texts most frequently translated from English into German.

The German Shakespeare Society, which boasts 2,000 members and meets twice a year, was founded 1864 to mark the bard's 300th birthday, with the aim of promoting and maintaining Shakespeare's works in the German language.

This weekend's meeting will include a seminar with German Shakespeare translators and a musical jazz rendering of the bard's sonnets.

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Döring said the society's next meeting in the spring will explore Shakespeare's treatment of finance and money in the context of the current financial and economic crisis.

DAPD/The Local/jlb

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