(Shakespeare Navigators): *”Note to Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1609), 4.5.176-177: Ophelia is speaking of the wildflower which is the ancestor of the garden flower developed in the nineteenth century. The flower had three common names: heartsease, love-in-idleness, and pansy (derived from the French word pensées, thoughts). All three names of the flower evoke love thoughts, and the flower was an emblem of love and courtship.”
Sarah Prager wrote at daily.jstor.org on January 29, 2020:
“As Looby notes in Flowers of Manhood, “daisy,” “buttercup,” and especially “pansy,” as well as the generalized “horticultural lad” were early twentieth century terms for “flamboyant gay men.”
“Pansies” were in their heyday in the 1920s and 1930s in New York and many other major cities around the U.S. This was known as the “pansy craze,” a term coined by the historian George Chauncey. Especially in New York City, drag balls starring “female impersonators” were extravagant and enormous. The police eventually shut them all down, including a 1939 one in Harlem that ended a 70-year annual tradition (for more, see Gaylaw: Challenging the Apartheid of the Closet by William N. Eskridge). Likewise, Hollywood’s “pansy craze” of queer representation in film was ultimately shut down by censors, but not before those movies helped to bring queerness to the national consciousness.
“Chauncey points out that while the pansy craze often drew on or reproduced the most demeaning stereotypes of male homosexuals, it did, at times, provide a space for some gay performers to speak about, to resist, and even to counter heterosexist presumptions about fairies and other queers,” the film scholar Mark Lynn Anderson writes in his 2011 book Twilight of the Idols: Hollywood and the Human Sciences in 1920s America.”
From: Noel Coward – a Biography (1995), by Philip Hoare:
“(1936) In June Coward took off again, for Venice and the Lido. Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound brought his boat in (photographed on deck in shorts, Coward’s arm resting chummily on the admiral’s shoulder), and Noel and friends – Doris Castlerosse, Ivor Novello, Douglas Fairbanks and Lady Ashley – went aboard for parties. Lady Castlerosse and Coward were given an open guest list by Sir Dudley and Lady Pound for one party. Castlerosse confided, ‘Noel, I have a dreadful feeling we’ve asked too many queer people.’ Coward reassured her, ‘If we take care of the pansies, the Pounds will take care of themselves.’.”