Criminal Pamphlets and the Law
in Same-Sex Desire in Early Modern England, 1550–1735
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Canon law had long condemned male same-sex sexual acts, at least from the late fourth century, but the later Church courts were inconsistent in their treatment of offenders. In England, same-sex sexual acts between men (called 'sodomy' and 'buggery' in English legal discourses) began to be regulated and punished by the state only with the 1533-34 statute against buggery. As the Castlehaven trial suggests, legal prosecution and execution for sodomy could occur without proving anal penetration and emission. There are two indictments against Mervin Lord Audley, the first for rape, the second for sodomy; the prisoner is honourable, the crimes dishonourable of which he is indicted. Humphrey Stafford focuses on defining Stafford as a good gentleman who sinned, making him much less a monstrous stereotype of vice than is the case either with John Atherton or with Renaissance crime pamphlets convicted murderers.

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Same-Sex Desire in Early Modern England, 1550–1735

An anthology of literary texts and contexts


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