“Homo-Heroic Love: Male Friendship on the Restoration Stage” asks why, while sodomy and homosexuality were still criminalized, did the London Restoration stage depict men in love? Scholars have resisted reading these male friendships—where men kiss, hug, and declare their constancy to each other—as exhibiting same-sex desire, an approach that overlooks these texts’ importance as historical sites of non-normative sexual expression. In order to combat the denial of same-sex desire within these tragedies, I coin the term “homo-heroic love” to describe male relationships that are physically demonstrative, emotionally intimate, and socially revered. For example, in Nathanial Lee’s The Rival Queens (1677), Hephestion hierarchizes male love above heteronormative affection, transforming homoerotic desire into something that is honourable and revered: “Such is not Womans love, / So fond a friendship, such a sacred flame, / As I must doubt to find in Breasts above.” Combining queer theory and performance studies, I demonstrate how homoeroticism was appropriated as an advantageous tool in reinforcing patriarchal power, and how the promotion of “homo-heroic” love was a response to concerns about Charles II’s newly restored, but unstable, monarchy.
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Thesis advisor: Solomon, Diana
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