Many critics have tried to find explanations for why Shakespeare’s sonnets and Richard Barnfield’s The Affectionate Shepheard seem to have been unpopular on their original publication, whereas other equally explicit works exploring homoeroticism, such as Christopher Marlowe’s Hero and Leander or Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, were well received by readers and audiences. This essay argues that these critics have overlooked the significance of the lyric form in their investigations. Lyric is more fluid, open-ended, and overtly performative than either narrative verse or drama, and this made it a more dangerous literary form for expressing controversial sexual sentiments.


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