Hamlet was bisexual, according to Sir Ian McKellen, who claims the prevaricating prince was having an affair with Rosencrantz.
The 82-year-old actor is set to play the Danish royal, often portrayed as a young man, in an upcoming “age-blind” production opening at the Theatre Royal in Windsor on June 21.
Sir Ian, a long-time advocate of LGBT rights, has said that the title character of William Shakespeare’s tragedy is bisexual.
Hamlet’s sexuality is given away by his relationship with the ill-fated Rosencrantz, according to the actor.
Sir Ian has said that when audiences see his interpretation of Hamlet, they will see a character who loves “girls and boys”.
The Lord of the Rings star claimed the evidence for this bisexuality is found in Rosencrantz telling his friend the hero: “My lord, you once did love me”, to which Hamlet replies: “And do still.”
Sir Ian said despite some audience members insisting that “he doesn’t really mean love”, it is apparent to him “he’s been having an affair”.
A brief preview of HAMLET, which begins 21 June at Theatre Royal Windsor https://t.co/cAaDiawdF4 pic.twitter.com/zXPcHLMFhX
— Ian McKellen (@IanMcKellen) June 11, 2021
Shakespeare and sexuality
There has long been speculation about the sexuality of Shakespeare, whose sonnets to a Fair Youth have been read as romantic addresses to a male figure.
Speculation has also expanded to his plays, including Hamlet, whose close friendship with Horatio has been interpreted by some as a homoerotic relationship.
Hamlet’s cruel and forceful rejection of Ophelia has also been taken as a sign the title character is uncomfortable with his sexuality and resentful of his relationships with women.
It has even been suggested Hamlet’s suicidal tendencies, often blamed on the death of his father before the play begins, could be a function of repressing his sexuality.
Sir Ian’s reinterpretation will extend to the most famous expression of Hamlet’s despair, the “To be or not to be” speech, which has been revised from a soliloquy to be an address to Horatio in the new production.
The actor explained on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row: “I don’t think it’s [Hamlet] wondering if he should kill himself, it’s a young man wondering what life is all about, and a situation almost anyone in the audience ought to be able to relate to.
“In order to make it sound that it’s absolutely in the moment – and that it is not a depressing, suicidal moment – I speak it to Horatio, my best friend who, as he often is in the play, is silent but listens.”