December 16, 2012


From Jonathon Bate's fine Introduction to the Modern Library's Antony and Cleopatra:

"Cruel Alexis" is the "lovely boy" ... to echo his name was automatically to evoke homoerotic desire, which in Shakespeare's time was also castigated as a form of emasculation. 
The name "Alexas" signals the trickier aspect of the Greek influence on Roman culture.  Ancient Greece provided classical Rome - and Elizabethan England - with a back-catalogue of military heroes and ideals:  Alexander the Great, the generals who fought the Trojan war, the Spartan model of military training.  But "Greek love," as espoused in, say, Plato's Symposium was hardly calculated to reinforce the Roman code of masculinity.  The notion that the good life involved ascending a ladder of love that proceeded in an unbroken progression from buggering of boys to contemplation of the divine did not sit well with an ideology of cold baths and route marches.


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