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Il Pastor Fido: or The Faithful Shepherd (John Dymock)

Il Pastor Fido (The faithful shepherd) appeared in many adaptations of the 1590 Italian original by Guarini, including a 1647 English translation by Fanshawe and another 17th century English adaptation by Dymock. In the context of a kissing game among (female) nymphs, the shepher Mirtillo disguises himself as a woman  to gain access to the woman he desires.

LHMP entry

Female same-sex desire is generally presented in early modern drama in fictitious constructions: the desire is either mistaken or misdirected. Only in this last chapter do we see examples where knowing desire from one woman to another is presented positively, and may even be celebrated as an ideal over heterosexual desire. Things aren’t always straightforward, even so. Although the desiring woman may believe the object of her desire is a woman, not uncommonly the scenario is defused by involving a gender-disguised man.

This chapter focuses on the creation of homoerotic tension in a more asymmetric aggressive context, especially those involving a older experienced woman seducing a younger innocent, including those where the seduction (or assault) is triangulated around a male character that one or both women have a connection to. This motif stands in contrast to more idealized, egalitarian relationships such as those in Shakespeare’s As You Like It or A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or Lyly’s Gallathea.

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