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Although twenty-six of Shakespeare's sonnets are love poems addressed to a married woman (the "Dark Lady"), one hundred and twenty-six are addressed to an adolescent boy (known as the "Fair Youth").
The amorous tone of the latter group, which focus on the boy's beauty, has been interpreted as evidence for Shakespeare's bisexuality, although others interpret them as referring to intense friendship or fatherly affection, not sexual love.
Romantic friendship between women in Europe and North America became especially prevalent in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, with the simultaneous emergence of female education and a new rhetoric of sexual difference.
The study of historical romantic friendship is difficult because the primary source material consists of writing about love relationships, which typically took the form of love letters, poems, or philosophical essays rather than objective studies.
Several small groups of advocates and researchers have advocated for the renewed use of the term, or the related term Boston marriage, today.
Although it is difficult to state precisely what these ritualised relationships were, most historians who have studied them are fairly certain that they deal with a species of "ritualised kinship" that is covered by the term "brotherhood." (This type of "brotherhood" is similar to the ritualised agreements struck between members of the Mafia or other "men of honour" in our own society.) That explains why the texts on adelphopoiesis in the prayerbooks are embedded within sections dealing with other kinship-forming rituals, such as marriage and adoption.Giovanni Tomassia in the 1880s and Paul Koschaker in the 1930s, whose works Boswell knows and cites, had already reached this conclusion.Historian Robert Brain has also traced these ceremonies from Pagan "blood brotherhood" ceremonies through medieval Catholic ceremonies called "gossipry" or "siblings before God," on to modern ceremonies in some Latin American countries referred to as "compadrazgo"; Brain considers the ceremonies to refer to romantic friendship.Among those of the latter interpretation, in the preface to his 1961 Pelican edition, Douglas Bush writes: Since modern readers are unused to such ardor in masculine friendship and are likely to leap at the notion of homosexuality…we may remember that such an ideal, often exalted above the love of women, could exist in real life, from Montaigne to Sir Thomas Browne, and was conspicuous in Renaissance literature. The French philosopher Montaigne described the concept of romantic friendship (without using this English term) in his essay "On Friendship." In addition to distinguishing this type of love from homosexuality ("this other Greek licence"), another way in which Montaigne differed from the modern view Seeing (to speake truly) that the ordinary sufficiency of women cannot answer this conference and communication, the nurse of this sacred bond: nor seem their minds strong enough to endure the pulling of a knot so hard, so fast, and durable.Lesbian-feminist historian Lillian Faderman cites Montaigne, using "On Friendship" as evidence that romantic friendship was distinct from homosexuality, since the former could be extolled by famous and respected writers, who simultaneously disparaged homosexuality.(The quotation also furthers Faderman's beliefs that gender and sexuality are socially constructed, since they indicate that each sex has been thought of as "better" at intense friendship in one or another period of history.) and maintained a lifelong friendship.Thus the Greek words that Boswell translates as "be united together" in the third section of the document quoted above are, in fact, rather ordinary words that mean "become brothers" (adelphoi genesthai); and when they are translated in this more straightforward manner, they impart a quite different sense to the reader.Such agreements and rituals are "same-sex" in the sense that it is two men who are involved; and they are "unions" in the sense that the two men involved are co-joined as "brothers." But that is it.David Herbert Donald pointed out that men at that time often shared beds for financial reasons; men were accustomed to same-sex nonsexual intimacy, since most parents could not afford separate beds or rooms for male siblings.Anthony Rotundo notes that the custom of romantic friendship for men in America in the early 19th century was different from that of Renaissance France, and it was expected that men would distance themselves emotionally and physically somewhat after marriage; he claims that letters between Lincoln and Speed show this distancing after Lincoln married Mary Todd.