But the pun seems to have gone unheard before the 1780s, and may be the invention of Edmond Malone
, who prudishly glosses the obscene meaning as " 'too obvious to every reader, to require any explanation' " (95).
The prominent person who (along with Horace Walpole) assumed the authority of expertise in pronouncing on both cases was Edmond Malone
, the widely respected Shakespeare scholar and editor.
Chambers uses in his criticism of Edmond Malone
's description of the sign of the Globe, and Chambers's skeptical comment, "I do not know where he got this information." (1) However, just like all defenses of poetry since Aristotle, which shield the imaginary and the fictitious, Dillon's apology can be considered justifiable.
The legacy of this landmark edition lasted for the next fifty years since the two editors who dominated Shakespeare editing from the last third of the eighteenth century to the second half of the nineteenth, George Steevens and Edmond Malone
used Johnson's edition as a base text.
Still, people believed because they wanted to, although doubts were rising, and the greatest expert, Edmond Malone
, was not permitted to view the books.
His choice of topics is intriguing and appealing, with chapters dealing with the way the queer' sonnets figured in the battle between Edmond Malone
and George Chalmers over the amazingly inept forgeries of William Henry Ireland; the 'pre-queer' Bard as William Davenant's lost-and-found father; authorial sexuality as a shuttlecock in anti-Stratfordian campaigns (the strongest chapter by far); the gendering of Shakespeare through his portraits, especially in daft and earnest efforts to encode his baldness; and a recent example of de-queered Shakespeare, Shakespeare in Love.
One of the things that recommends this book is that Keevak constantly reminds us that far from being simply a recent concern, the controversy surrounding Shakespeare's sexuality, and particularly the sexuality depicted in the Sonnets, was well in place by the end of the eighteenth century, with George Stevens refusing to publish an edition of the Sonnets on essentially moral grounds and criticizing Edmond Malone
for doing so.
Doubtless for every William Henry Ireland who has been steered into the history books by a dedicated cicerone like Edmond Malone
, there are others whose `talents,' for whatever reason, have remained secret; and a genius, even for criminality, known to none but the perpetrator, must yield an unsatisfying sort of pleasure, despite its appreciable effect of keeping a person out of jail or at least free from obloquy.