Hamlet and Horatio. Horatio is Hamlet's close friend, confidant and ultimately the only one Hamlet really trusts throughout, and almost kills himself at Hamlet's death. And, he says the line "Goodnight sweet prince." If that line isn't Ho Yay, than what is? Not to mention the subtext almost doubles when you look at how crappily Hamlet treats his girlfriend, or the strong evidence that the characters were inspired by the scandal-ridden Brahe and Kepler.
The only reason Horatio doesn't kill himself is because Hamlet takes the poisoned goblet away and tells him not to. Act three, scene two, lines sixty-five to seventy-six (3:2:65-76), or thereabouts depending on your edition.
Horatio, thou art e'en as just a man
As e'er my conversation coped withal.
O my dear lord-
Nay, do not think I flatter.
For what advancement may I hope from thee
That no revenue hast but thy good spirits,
To feed and clothe thee? Why should the poor be flattered?
...Dost thou hear?
Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice,
And could of men distinguish, her election
Hath seal'd thee for herself: for thou hast been
As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing;
A man that fortune's buffets and rewards
Hast ta'en with equal thanks: and blest are those
Whose blood and judgement are so well comingle
That they are not a pipe for fortune's finger
To sound what stop she please. Give me that man
That is not passion's slave, and I will wear him
In my heart's core, ay, in my heart of heart,
As I do thee.
This troper once saw a production where Horatio was played by a woman (but was still referred to as a man and with male pronouns). The director apparently took this as an excuse to make the Ho Yaycanon. Nary a moment were the two onstage together that they weren't touching.
This troper saw a production where Horatio, never mind being played by a woman, was a woman. Who had a crush on Hamlet.
Hamlet also mentions kissing Yorick in that famous scene. Could be platonic, but he specifically mentions kissing Yorick's lips. Depending on how you look at it, the fact that Hamlet was a child when Yorick was still alive could make this better or worse.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. They're practically canon. It only gets worse when Tom Stoppard gets his hands on them.
Some critics have suggested that Antonio from The Merchant of Venice (the only male protagonist with no female love interest) has an unrequited crush on his friend Bassanio.
That's a totally 'chaste' kiss in the 2004 film version, by the way. Even though the one of them closes his eyes, like he was totally expecting it. The actual kiss being preceeded, even, by Bassanio tenderly cupping Antonio's cheek for along moment before going for the lips. Yupp, chaste! Not to mention how Antonio chastely lures Bassanio into, if I remember correctly, chastely removing his jacket and climbing onto the bed with him to chastely suck his face off.
It's pretty obvious that Bassanio is only marrying Portia for her money. Bassanio also intends to bring Antonio along on their honeymoon, calls Antonio "my sweet" four times, and spends four days "feasting" with Antonio - nice euphemism - before showing up at Belmont. Unrequited, you say?
In the court scene where Shylock is bent on digging out Antonio's flesh and won't relent to any pleas for mercy, Bassanio blatantly says that though he loves his wife, he would willingly trade her to save Antonio. Make of that what you will...
What sane guy will risk having his flesh carved out just to help a friend who's run out of cash and wasted all the borrowed money as well. Antonio probably wasn't that generous with all his other friends or it would be a miracle how he managed to run a business!
He also says something to Bassanio when he comes to ask for money that can roughly be summarised as "My purse and my heart are always open to you''.
Also note that "purse" was a vaginal euphemism.
Antonio calls himself a "castrated ram." That's not a hint or a subtle nudge, that's a direct, blatant euphemism (in Elizabethan English). There's not really a grey area as to his sexuality.
And Antonio from Twelfth Night seems to be very fond of Sebastian, going to far as to travel into the land of his longtime enemy, Orsino, in order to follow Sebastian. Those Antonios, man!
"If you will not murder me for my love, let me be your servant."
In the above quote, which comes in their first scene together, there are puns on "murder" ("to die" could also mean "to orgasm") and "servant" (both in the still-familiar sense of "servicing" someone and as an archetype in courtly love). Ambiguity goes out the window very early on.
With some productions with mostly-female casts and an attempt to avoid confusion by in-show crossdressing in both plays, both came off 100% as unrequited crushes.
The 2010 Oregon Shakespeare Festival's production of Twelfth Night included fairly blatant heartbreak on Antonio's part, and "thank God I'm not gay" on Orsino's.
Not to mention that it's hard not to think of swapping possibilities among Orsino/Viola/Olivia/Sebastian, even after the Mistaken Identity is cleared up...
The Romeo/Mercutio subtext almost distracts from the Romeo/Juliet text. This is taken to extreme levels in the quasi-modern Luhrmann version, which portrays Mercutio as a Camp Gay.
Hell, it was pretty blatant in the Franco Zeffirelli version as well. They're about two inches away from each other during the Queen Mab speech. This may have been intentional, given Zeffirelli's inclinations. Though, with Romeo's pining for Rosaline and then (supposedly) more mature pining for Juliet, it's very likely that much of it could have been unrequited.
David Tennant wrote an essay that touched upon this. He and Adrian Schiller chose to deliberately play the relationship as homoerotic, with Romeo spurning Mercutio's advances.
Romeo/Tybalt: "Love thee better than thou canst devise"?
Not to mention back in Shakespeare's days there were no female actors....
And we shouldn't forget Julius Caesar. The characters seem to love each other more than their wives.
Truth in Television there. Eminent Romans didn't marry for love, and a man who loved his wife was considered somewhat ridiculous.
Cassius: Give me your hand.
Brutus: And my heart, too.
Othello, which has one scene where Iago convinces Othello Cassio's having an affair with his wife by making up a story that he was practically molested by Cassio, when they shared a bed and Cassio in his sleep thought Iago was Desdemona. In detail. Even more so, the play's "climax" (by the Elizabethan definition, i.e., the midpoint) is a vow of fealty between Othello and Iago eerily reminiscent of a marriage.
The 2001 re-imagining featuring Eamonn Walker and Christopher Eccleston included a scene in which Iago takes a cheek swab from Othello for a DNA test. He leaves the swab in Othello's mouth for an awfully long while...
In Coriolanus, the title character betrays Rome to join with an invading army led by Aufidius. Aufidius's reaction can be paraphrased as "I love my wife, but this makes me happier than I was on my wedding day."
...And then increases the Foe Yay by describing a recurring dream of "fighting" with Coriolanus:
Let me twine
Mine arms about that body, where against
My grained ash an hundred times hath broke
And scarr'd the moon with splinters: here I clip
The anvil of my sword, and do contest
As hotly and as nobly with thy love
As ever in ambitious strength I did
Contend against thy valour. Know thou first,
I loved the maid I married; never man
Sigh'd truer breath; but that I see thee here,
Thou noble thing! more dances my rapt heart
Than when I first my wedded mistress saw
Bestride my threshold. Why, thou Mars! I tell thee,
We have a power on foot; and I had purpose
Once more to hew thy target from thy brawn,
Or lose mine arm fort: thou hast beat me out
Twelve several times, and I have nightly since
Dreamt of encounters 'twixt thyself and me;
We have been down together in my sleep,
Unbuckling helms, fisting each other's throat,
And waked half dead with nothing.
The BBC Shakespeare version, it should be said, has Aufidius give this speech while putting his hand under Coriolanus' shirt and basically getting to second base.
This Troper saw a version performed where Aufidius and Coriolanus kissed.
And let us not ignore the Les Yay in certain plays, especially the extreme closeness between Cleopatra and her handmaidens or Rosalind and Celia in As You Like It. And "But yet I cannot love him" Olivia in Twelfth Night. Once you start looking, the Les Yay is everywhere!
This troper studied As You Like It in a queer writing course. It's not only very, very intentional Les Yay, it's also one of the Ur Examples of queer subtext, and writers like Oscar Wilde drop references to it and other Shakespearean plays when they want to imply homosexual desire in their own works.
Speaking of Midsummer, someone has to have speculated about Oberon and Puck. And while we're at it, Titania and her now deceased handmaiden, who birthed the human child that provokes the fight between the two of them.
This troper's representation of A Midsummer Night's Dream featured a Running Gag of Titania asking her husband exactly why he wanted her ward so much that he was fighting with her over him. It included a lot of pointing out just how hot the actress looked in her Stripperiffic costume.
The Syracusian Antipholus and Dromio in The Comedy of Errors definitely had some sort of bromance going on. One production color-coded them in pink AND had them clinging to each other repeatedly did NOT help.
In Henry V, III.viii was listed in our S.M's script as "Big Gay Love Scene". And then there's IV.vi. An intimate scene between Exeter and Harry in which Exeter weeps as he relates to Harry Suffolk and York's "testament to noble-ending love". Harry also gives Exeter his coat at some point earlier on.
While we're on the subject of the histories, how can we forget Hal/Hotspur from Henry IV, Part I? Foe Yay meets Ho Yay, big time.
But be he as he will, yet once ere night
I will embrace him with a soldier's arm,
That he shall shrink [tremble] under my courtesy.
Come, let me taste my horse,
Who is to bear me like a thunderbolt
Against the bosom of the Prince of Wales:
Harry to Harry shall, hot horse to horse,
Meet and ne'er part till one drop down a corse.
The epicenter of Shakespearean Ho Yay is Sonnet 20, which combines a straightforwardly homoerotic surface meaning with enough double and triple entendres that, in some editions, the annotations explaining them are longer than the poem itself:
A woman's face, with nature's own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change as is false women's fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,
Which steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert though first created,
Till nature as she wrought thee fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she pricked thee out for women's pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure.
In Troilus and Cressida, there are multiple hints at Achilles and Patroclus being in a sexual relationship. They always enter and exit scenes together, share a tent, and Achilles even mentioned that "Of this my privacy I have strong reasons" when Ulysses mentions him staying in his tent instead of fighting. There is a direct reference to a sexual relationship between Achilles and Patroclus in this exchange between Patroclus and Thersites:
Prithee be silent, boy. I profit not by thy talk. Thou art thought to be Achilles' male varlet.
'Male varlet', you rogue? What's that?
Why, his masculine whore.
Achilles and Patroclus of the original Illiad were often thought of as lovers, an interpretation that Shakespeare agreed with.
In The Tempest, Prospero and Ariel can be interpreted this way. Prospero is inordinately fond of calling him by pet names ("my bird", "my chick", "my delicate Ariel").
Ariel: Do you love me, master? No?
Prospero: Dearly, my delicate Ariel.
Antonio and Sebastian spend most of the time giggling and making witty comments to each other in the background of the scenes, or else plotting together and saying things that amount to, 'when I'm king, I'll love you.' It doesn't help that they have the same names as a certain pair from Twelfth Night.
In As You Like It, Orlando spends a large chunk of the play wooing Rosalind . . . while she's dressed as a man. To be fair, she instigates the craziness, saying that she can cure him of his love by pretending to be a false and changeable woman, but how involved he gets in the charade is up for debate, especially since she takes the name Ganymede (Zeus' cupbearer in Greek Mythology; in Renaissance England the name carried connotations of being the object of male homosexual affection).
In King Richard III, about the executed little boys:
’Lo, thus’ quoth Dighton, ’lay those tender babes:’
’Thus, thus,’ quoth Forrest, ’girdling one another