Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 August 2021
It is striking how many of Shakespeare’s erotic plays have war either as their setting or are born out of a recent state of violent conflict. Troilus and Cressida and Antony and Cleopatra fall most clearly into the former camp, but think also of comedies like Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where eros emerges from a newly forged peace only to constitute a new battleground of its own. This chapter probes the conjunction of war and eros that appears in almost half of Shakespeare’s plays, first through a broad survey of his corpus and then through studies of The Two Noble Kinsmen, Troilus and Cressida, and Romeo and Juliet. It argues that, far from merely contingent, theatrical conjunctions, Shakespeare provides us a deep conceptual study of the connection between eros and violence, both the potential violence of sexuality and the unsettling underlying sexuality of war.