Homosexuality in Victorian and Elizabethan Literature.

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Alexander Lucero

AP English 12

Yu

5.17.12

Homosexuality Portrayed in Literature: Threat To Yourself and Those Around You

The Victorian era and Elizabethan era had many homophobic attributes, just as today's society does. Gothic writers of the Victorian Age played off of the fear and immorality of homosexuality and used those feelings as a basis for their novels. Bram Stoker told a story about a vampire that challenged the Victorian gender roles and managed to reverse them, making men faint like women, and making women powerful like men, and called it Dracula. Mary Shelley created a a physical being out of a man's suppressed homosexuality due to his Victorian male upbringing; a man named Frankenstein. Robert Stevenson described what happens when a homosexual male attempts to live double lives to cover up his true feelings, and entitled it The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The Elizabethan era, like the Victorian era, had its own view of homosexuality. Iago, a man with the tongue of a serpent, is believed to be homosexual, and because of his homosexuality, he brings to fruition the tragic deaths of the the main characters in Shakespeare's Othello. These depictions of homosexuality and gay men are not far from what really happens to them in today's society, and are also not far off from the arguments that are used in opposition of their lives and lifestyles.There is the argument of Nurture vs. Nature; the argument discusses whether or not we learn to do things just because that is the way they are, or because we are brought up to be the way that we are. In the case of homophobia, there is an immense amount of nurture. It is this nurture that has caused such opposition for the LGBTQ community. Mitchell Walker, a renown psychologist gives an account of homosexuality in the Victorian era, and provides an example of the homophobic nature of the society. “Sodomy was punishable by death from the reign of Henry VIII until 1861, when it was made an imprisonable felony. Prior to 1861, gay people were commonly hung, and even burned at the stake. A commentator in 1699 notes that homosexuality is 'a crime that sinks below the basest epithet, is so foul that it admits no aggravation and cannot be expressed in its horrors but by the doleful shrieks and groans of the damned'”(Walker par. 28) In some of today's countries, especially in African countries, sodomy and homosexuality are still punishable by death. In Uganda, under law, if a man is found to be homosexual, or if someone even has a suspicion of a man being homosexual, he can be put to death. It is almost like the Red Scare, where a person could be sent to prison just for a suspicion that he was a communist. Very recently, in Liberia, legislation was passed that can sentence a man to a life sentence in prison for homosexuality and homosexual activities. Because of these scenarios in today's time, it is apparent that the legal side of homophobia has weathered the course of time and is still strong today. Homosexuality gained public attention from the Victorians in 1895 during the trial of Oscar Wilde. He was sentenced to face two years of hard labor for sodomy(Muskovitz par. 2). It was now brought to light, to the Victorian society, the “threat” that homosexuality held. Even the medical field condemned homosexuality, as shown in Muskovitz's “The Threat of Otherness in Bram Stoker's Dracula”, “In the nineteenth century, homosexuality became an object of medicalization [...]the epidemiological horror fiction, including Dracula, encodes the fear and anxiety of the homophobic society, that is, homosexuals want to ‘corrupt’ heterosexuals (481)[...] it was a commonplace in people’s imagination in England that sodomy was transported from Catholic countries as Italy and France, or from more exotic places (66). Sodomy had been looked at with more suspicion and condemned when it came to be seen as the chief cause for venereal diseases, associated with...
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