The Bard's Queer Makeover

Front page shocker in today's New York Times: William Shakespeare was a homosexual. Grizzled former war correspondent John F. Burns has unearthed the bombshell in the form of a very gay-looking portrait.

The previously unkown painting comes from the private collection of "an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family, the Cobbes, who have owned it for nearly 300 years, since inheriting it through a family relationship with Shakespeare's only known literary patron, Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton."

If that's not gay enough for you, Burns describes the painting in lurid detail:

The Cobbe portrait, as the scholars now call it, shows a head-turner of a man. In middle age, this Shakespeare has a fresh-faced complexion, a closely trimmed auburn beard, a long straight nose and a full, almost bouffant hairstyle. He is dressed in elaborate white lace ruff and a gold-trimmed blue doublet of a kind worn only by the wealthy and successful men of his age.

Now are you convinced? OK, here's what the Shakespeare Birthday Trust, which introduced the Cobbe portrait in a news conference, had to say on the matter:

In a handout for reporters, the trust said the portrait might open a new era in Shakespeare scholarship, giving fresh momentum, among other things, to generations of speculation as to whether the playwright, a married man with three children, was bisexual.... "This Shakespeare is handsome and glamorous, so how does this change the way we think about him?" the handout said. "And do the painting and provenance tell us more about his sexuality, and possibly about the person to whom the sonnets are addressed?"