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date: 06 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Drawing on Freud’s categories of perversion (domination, abjection, scopophilia, exhibitionism, fetishism) and Eve Sedgwick’s analysis of erotic triangles, the essay reinterprets the marriage plots of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor. Pleasurably and painfully perverse desires circulate through multiple erotic triangles that are unstable and concatenating and fluidly form and re-form not just, as usual, ‘between men’ but also between women; characters participate in more than one. Countering the conventional male homosocial cuckoldry triangle of Falstaff, Ford, and Ford’s wife is the woman-anchored homosocial adultery triangle of Mistress Ford, Mistress Page, and Falstaff; in the courtships for the hand of Anne Page, odder triangles are spawned. All circulate power and pleasure in every direction so that the institution of marriage incites and is sustained by circulating desires. Categories of gender and sexual identity are revealed to be permeable and fungible, and distinctions between the normative and the non-normative are undone.

Keywords: gender, sexuality, perverse desires, erotic triangles, marriage, cuckoldry

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