This chapter considers ideas about how texts open and close possibilities, and uses them to read some of Shakespeare's work. It first focuses on the Sonnets, on the rhetoric of possession and dispossession through which the poet tries to represent his relationship with the ‘lovely boy’, often rather desperately redescribing betrayal as fidelity, and indifference as love. It then turns to Shakespeare's dialogue with the homoerotic poems of Richard Barnfield, tracing how Shakespeare adapts some of Barnfield's simplistic images and scenarios into his much more emotionally and rhetorically complex forms. The chapter explores how Shakespeare transformed the source materials for Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice in way which offered homoerotic scenarios which were not available in the originals.
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