Queering Dracula

By: Scout Swonger (They/Them/Theirs)

While vampires typically have their time in the spotlight (certainly not the sunlight) during Spooktober or in Twilight-related fan circles, Dracula has persisted as an evergreen classic in part due to its many themes ripe for deep mining and discussion. 

We are excited to spend some time traveling to Transylvania ourselves to explore these many nuances with audiences amidst David Auburn’s fantastical production of Bram Stoker’s classic dramatized by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston.

When thinking about the various undertones present in Dracula — and those vampiric works it has inspired since — an essential lens to view it through is queerness. While the aforementioned modern pop-vampiric work is popular for its iconic heterosexual romances, there has been a long and strong history of vampirism and the homoerotic lense being intrinsically entwined. In today’s blog, I’d like to showcase these interpretations of the work and give us another layer to consider when attending the current production at the Colonial!

Such interpretation must begin and is strengthened by the queer influences in Stoker’s own life. While Stoker did have a heterosexual marriage with his wife Florence, the few photos of the couple together and generally cool communication between the two provide evidence of a marriage with little if any romance. Stoker was more interested in his work, collaborations and friendships with other luminaries of the day, such as Oscar Wilde. Notably, Wilde (a former partner of Florence) was put on trial for gross indecency because of his homosexuality and sentenced to a criminal labor camp as homosexuality was a criminal offense in England at the time (homosexual activity was not made legal in England until 1967). This theory regarding Stoker’s own sexuality is further supported by the letters from his other male friendships, some containing extremely effusive language not typically used in purely platonic relationships. A particularly striking example is found in a gushing letter to Walt Whitman, replete with a mix of professional as well as possible personal and even romantic adoration. This was followed by a specific physical description of himself, writing something of a long-form Tinder bio to draw Whitman into a closer relationship. 



You have shaken off the shackles and your wings are free. I have the shackles on my shoulders still—but I have no wings.” –Bram Stoker


The strongest example of queer themes in Dracula, however, is found in the text itself. It is important to remember first and foremost the period in which it was written and set. The Victorian era saw the beginnings of shifting social roles, particularly for women, amidst a culture of repression. As with any movement for social change, there was an intense social backlash that sought to suppress it and maintain the status quo. While the “New Woman” was fighting for liberation, women found themselves met with even greater pressure to adhere to the tenets of modesty, purity and docility that were expected. As British society saw an influx of immigrants from across the world, xenophobic ideology gained a greater platform. And as sex and sexuality entered a more public sphere of discussion, such attempts to normalize those topics and practices within them seen as deviant saw a great deal of backlash. Generally, “The Other,” which was classified as any individual outside the rigid bounds of straight, white, male and protestant, found an increased presence in the zeitgeist. Any individual who fulfilled that classification was subject to persecution.


In Dracula, the titular character represents this “Other” in ways both literal and metaphorical. He is not only a vampire intruding on the world of humanity, but also an eastern European moving to British society and, most notably for our purposes, a man with an unabashed thirst for blood from any and all sexes. He seeks not partnership or romance, but a carnal connection. In this way, the character of Dracula embodies the desire that was so taboo to recognize in society at the time. This alone gives fodder for a queer reading of the text, as queer identities are often associated with hypersexuality in attempts to demonize. But Dracula not only embodies general physical desire but a desire to penetrate his victims and ingest their blood. This speaks not only to an unabashed and intense sexual nature but domination that is queer in its optics. These optics are present both in the instances when it is a male/male transaction, but also with female vampires who inhabit a dominant position over their male victims, bending the gender rules of the time. And in female/female vampiric transactions they provide another example of overtly queer interactions.


Once the queerness in the act itself is seen, we can also see how queerness was seen by society, further strengthening the allegory. Dracula, the symbol of pansexual desire, is a monstrosity that our central group of heroes —“the crew of light”— are on a mission to defeat. This group of upstanding, strong, straight British men, exemplary of society’s ideal, are not only defending their “helpless women” for whom vampirification by Dracula would ironically bring new strength and freedom for self-determination that their place in society as human women would not allow them, but they are defending themselves and their masculinity from possible castration and loss of virility. The crew’s quest to banish Dracula is both in their self-interest to maintain their humanity both as literal humans, but also as the kind of human men that are allotted the dignity of humanity that queer life is often not allotted. 


Beyond purely homosexual interpretations, vampires inhabit a queer existence in a broader sense. Just as queerness can help describe a way of being that is in general opposition to the proscribed narratives of society and put a unifying label to identities that exist in a more liminal space, vampires exist in a space somewhere between humanity and creaturedom, as well as masculinity and femininity, and homo and heterosexuality. They inhabit a body that generally presents as human, and it is the departures from that – the hairy palms (another reference to the monstrous sexual activity), sharp teeth, pointed ears, and pale skin- which cause a sense of horror and disgust before even encountering the act that defines vampirism. And it is such abnormalities that the vampire is forced to conceal in their day-to-day life so they may stay discrete and carry out their desires at night. Similarly, it is common for those of the queer community to have to engage in efforts to “pass” —such as a gay man trying to pass as straight by masking mannerisms historically seen as feminine, or a trans individual seeking to pass as cis to avoid harassment— both in efforts to avoid abuse, harrasment, and discrimination. And it is at night in accepting enclaves where those mannerisms and ways of being that would be clocked as queer by the general public may simply be inhabited without shame or concern.


Yet possibly most striking in this modern queer reading is the blood connection. While certainly not purposeful at the time of Dracula’s writing or the conception of vampires, it is now hard not to find the undertones of HIV/AIDs fears in Dracula’s blood-lust. Beyond fears of the act of penetration itself, the horror is heightened by the blood transfusion so intimately enacted. With this modern lens applied, one sees not only the crew’s fears of becoming submissive, othered, and a creature of taboo carnal desire, but the metaphorical fear of disease and bodily destruction. 


Dracula has given fruit for reflection on the state of society and identity in a variety of ways over the years. It is a piece that has stood the test of time both for its ability to capture the unique space that existed in society at the time of inception, as well as its ability to reflect the issues of the moment. This timeless story of the fight against the other can be seen not only as a heroic quest to defeat true evil but just as much an ardent fight to maintain the status quo and banish forces that question it. And at this moment where the queer community is under renewed attack and attempts at demonization, it is only natural to apply a queer lens to the work as we experience it an a new, fantastical light on The Colonial Stage. 


This is only one of many readings of Dracula that enhance the already rich material. What comparisons to today or glimpses of insight into the past will strike you? I hope you will join us to find out!


Künnecke, Lucas. “Blood, Sex and Vampirism: Queer Desires in Stoker’s Dracula and Le Fanu’s Carmilla.” Academia, 7 May 2015, https://www.academia.edu/12280616/Blood_Sex_and_Vampirism_Queer_Desires_in_Stoker_s_Dracula_and_Le_Fanu_s_Carmilla. 


Xavier Aldana Reyes, ‘Dracula Queered’, in The Cambridge Companion to Dracula, ed. by Roger Luckhurst (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 125–35.




Lavigne, Carlen. “Sex, Blood and (Un) Death: The Queer Vampire and HIV.” Journal of Dracula Studies 6.1 (2004): 4


Biography.com Editors. “Bram Stoker.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 5 Aug. 2020, https://www.biography.com/writer/bram-stoker.

Plan Your Visit

Read our suggestions on where to dine, and where to hang your hat.

Get Started
Did You Know?
Just like NPR, Berkshire Theatre Group depends on the generous giving of its members!
Join Today!
We believe the performing arts can transform a community.
Learn More
Of the 16,000 Berkshire County school children, we serve 13,000 through our BTG PLAYS! Year-Round Educational Programs.
Learn More
Theatre is the place where we go to understand what lies in the human heart.
About Us
BTG's buildings, on two campuses in Stockbridge and Pittsfield, are historic treasures.
Theatre Info
Berkshire Theatre Group believes that the creative arts encourage freedom of speech and debate.
Get Involved
"Out of need will come the way. Once the pandemic ebbs, whenever that is, there will be an incredible need to gather again." - Artistic Director, Kate Maguire
Join Today!
The theatre has existed from the time of the Greeks. We will go on.
Learn More
Join Our Mailing List

Receive the latest BTG News, Updates, Special Offers, and more right to your inbox.


News & Articles

From the Archive: Eva LeGallienne

By: Katie Birenboim (She/Her/Hers)   Devoted fans of BTG may gasp to discover that until doing a first round of research in the amazing BTG archives, I had never heard … Read On

In addition to the performance, ticket holders for A Christmas Carol will be able to dive deeper into the festive spirit with a lineup of special events on select nights ❄

Don't miss "Jingle & Click" on December 13 and "Yuletide Creations" on December 16! 📸🎨

To purchase tickets to A Christmas Carol and to participate in these exclusive events, visit berkshiretheatre.org today! ☃️
Congratulations to BTG alum and Pittsfield native, Ali Louis Bourzgui (Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, Seussical The Musical, A Christmas Carol), for being cast as Tommy Walker in the upcoming Broadway revival of The Who's Tommy! ✨🎭

(Photo: Ali Bourzgui (Jojo/Little Boy) & Cody Lee Miller (Cat in the Hat) in Seussical the Musical, 2014. Photo by Emily Faulkner.)

A Christmas Carol, which is making its triumphant return to the Unicorn from December 7-23, opens this week, and all of us at BTG could not be more excited to see our actors from the Berkshire community bring this classic tale to life! ✨❄️

Tickets are selling fast, so get your tickets today at berkshiretheatre.org!

(Photo: Cast of A Christmas Carol, 2019. Photo by Emma K. Rothenberg-Ware.)
BTG has been voted as Rural Intelligence's 1st Place Winner in the Live Theater Venue category, and The Colonial Theatre has been voted as a Runner-Up in the Performance Space category for the 2023 Reader's Choice Awards!

Thank you all so much for your continued support this year, and we are truly grateful for the endless love you have given us as a community. We cannot do everything that we do without you ❤
Thank you so much to all who joined us and made a gift yesterday on Giving Tuesday. BTG has remained a strong beacon for performing arts in the Berkshires for nearly 100 years because of all of you ❤🫶

Thank you for choosing to join our community and be a part of our story.
There are still a few hours left to give this #GivingTuesday! All donations made before midnight tonight will be matched 2:1 by a group of generous donors, up to $250,000!

Donate today at berkshiretheatregroup.org/support, and thank you so much from all of us at BTG ❤
BTG strives to create fresh, new works for the Berkshire community and beyond to enjoy. One new play we had the pleasure of producing was Christine Lahti's (@officialchristinelahti) world premiere of The Smile of Her, which had a wildly successful run at the Unicorn Theatre this 2023 Summer Season. BTG hopes to continue to produce many more stories the world has not had the pleasure of experiencing yet ✨

Help BTG bring more new productions to life by donating today at berkshiretheatregroup.org/support
Did you know? All those who make donations of $50 or more today will be automatically entered in a drawing to win 2 tickets to any Berkshire Theatre Group 2024 production! Also, those who donate $100 or more will be entered to win a 3-show pass to our 2024 summer season!

Donate to be entered to win by visiting berkshiretheatregroup.org/support ❤
BTG has become a creative home for the artists who have graced our stages and have given their hard work towards our productions, and many choose to come back home year after year. We have the continued pleasure of working with Scott and Jason (@jason.weixelman) for many years, and BTG continues to grow its large, creative family ❤

Help BTG support our numerous talented artists by donating today at berkshiretheatregroup.org/support
Our education programs, which have reached over 10,000 students in our community, are an essential part of what makes BTG what it is. BTG's influence does not end when the final curtain falls, but carries on in their hearts for years to come, and, for many, for life 🫶❤

This #GivingTuesday, help BTG continue to provide memorable experiences for thousands of students by donating today at berkshiretheatregroup.org/support
Happy #GivingTuesday! Listen to Kate Baldwin (@realkatebaldwin) and Graham Rowat (@growat) reflect on what they love about BTG, then head on over to berkshiretheatregroup.org/support to donate and help us reach our goal of $25,000 ❤
For Cyber Monday, our 2024 Season Pass Sale is BACK FOR ONE DAY ONLY, so don't miss your LAST CHANCE to grab 3 tickets to any BTG produced shows for only $135! ✨

Visit berkshiretheatre.org to snag your 2024 Season Pass now 🎫
Today is Small Business Saturday, and BTG is once again participating in the Downtown Pittsfield Passport from today through December 3 to celebrate small businesses in Pittsfield! 🛍🛒

To participate with us, pick up your Downtown Pittsfield Passport at any participating business and, the more businesses you support, the more chances you have at winning one of three prize packages!
The holiday season is a time to share and give thanks, and we are thankful for you! Your support throughout the year made it possible for us to produce award winning theatre, provide education programs to over 10,000 Berkshire County students, and bring many musical acts to our Colonial stage. 

From all of us at Berkshire Theatre Group, we wish you and your loved ones a joyful holiday season 🤲❤️
BTG is grateful for every single one of our patrons, volunteers, staff members, donors, actors and crew members, and we wish you all endless joy this Thanksgiving Day! 🍂🍽
We are just one week away from Giving Tuesday! 🤲❤️

BTG's story is not just about the stories we share with audiences within our shows, but also includes the many stories of the people, just like you, who make BTG who we are. So, this Giving Tuesday, we welcome you to continue to be a part of our story as we continue to produce exceptional theatre for nearly 100 years for the Berkshire Community and beyond 🫶
Tickets are selling FAST for A Christmas Carol, returning to the Unicorn from December 7-23! 🎄☃️

A few performances are already sold out, so make sure to grab your tickets before they are gone by visiting berkshiretheatre.org today! ❄

(Photo: Cast of A Christmas Carol, 2019. Photo by Emma K. Rothenberg-Ware)
TWICE the shows, TWICE the show-stopping action! 🐾 Mutts Gone Nuts will now perform at 2pm AND 5pm on December 10 at the Colonial!

Visit berkshiretheatre.org today to witness fun, thrilling stunts and tricks that are sure to get your tail wagging 🐶
Skiers, snowboarders, and snow lovers rejoice as Warren Miller's newest film, All Time, is coming to the Colonial TONIGHT at 7pm! ⛷🏂 In addition to the film, BTG is celebrating the beginning of the winter season by holding a raffle for various winter sports gear, including an e-bike, all provided by our generous sponsors! Be there for a chance to win HUGE prizes!

Time is running out, so get your tickets now at berkshiretheatre.org ❄

Thank you to Berkshire Bike and Board, Berkshire NEMBA, Berkshire Outfitters, Bousquet Mountain, Bousquet Mountain Ski Patrol, Jiminy Peak, Jiminy Peak Ski Patrol, Pinnacle Trail Design & Construction, Ski Fanatics, Western Mass Backcountry Alliance - WMBA, and Western Mass Ski Patrol for vending and donating prizes for this event!
Follow Us