Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

24 July 2007

Homosexuality in Renaissance England

My playwright completism led me to Mark Ravenhill's play Mother Clap's Molly House. (At this point, I will almost definitely have a chapter on Ravenhill in my thesis.) And just as I finished Mother Clap's Molly House I decided to pick up Alan Bray's historiographic piece Homosexuality in Renaissance England.

It's so good. And so helpful in understanding attitudes toward homosexuality in Elizabethan and Jacobean England and how vastly these ideas changed in the later seventeenth century during the Restoration. Check out this description:
When the Earl of Castlehaven was tried in 1631 for rape and sodomy the Attorney General, Sir Robert Heath, warned that his crimes were: 'of that pestiferous and pestilential nature that if they be not punished will draw from Heaven heavy judgements upon this kingdom.' By the end of the trial he is no longer talking of these judgements of God merely as a possibility; they were already there. "By these abominations the land is defiled; and therefore the Lord doth visit this land for the iniquity thereof. // That God may remove and take away from us His plagues, let this wicked man be taken away from amongst us."
This reminds me of two things simultaneously. First, I am reminded of both Oedipus and Christ, sacrificial figures on whom the iniquity of a city/the world is placed and who need to be removed from the world for the sake of the preservation of that world. I am also reminded of Jerry Falwell and his statement about 11 September 2001 when he said "I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who try to secularize America... I point the thing in their face and say you helped this happen."