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Playing DirtySexuality and Waste in Early Modern Comedy$
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Will Stockton

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780816674596

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816674596.001.0001

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Happy Endings

Happy Endings

Healing Sick Desires in All’s Well That Ends Well

(p.45) 3 Happy Endings
Playing Dirty

Will Stockton

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter analyzes Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well in light of the ideology of the ex-gay movement—as a sexual and spiritual conversion narrative about turning men’s “sick desires” from anal, dead ends to vaginal, procreative ends. All ends well only because the play cuts away from two “sex scenes”: Helen’s cure of the king’s fistula and the bed trick, in which the anus tropes the eroticism of both scenes. Both scenes also demystify the work of heterosexual healing they are supposed to effect. Overly insistent on its own happy ending, All’s Well demonstrates how the intractable perversity of fantasy life upsets the teleology of conversion. The play questions the roles of faith and reproduction—two common “proofs” for a full-on conversion of desire into a rigid heterosexual standard, arguing that such efforts inadvertently recognize the fluidity of sexuality, rendering the point of conversion moot.

Keywords:   ex-gay movement, sick desires, All’s Well That Ends Well, sexuality, anus

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