Gender Roles In William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

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William Shakespeare was a poet and a playwright. Some of his plays are Hamlet, King Lear, The Tempest, and The Winter’s Tale. Also one of Shakespeare’s play is Twelfth Night, or What You Will which is a comedy written around they year 1601 and consists of five acts. According to The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night for his “all-male company” (Shakespeare 1187). In which during Shakespeare’s time plays were performed by men acting both the female and male roles. The earliest record of this play being performed on stage was in February of 1602 which was mentioned in John Manningham’s diary. The subtitle of the play What You Will “underscores the celebratory spirit associated with Twelfth Night, the …show more content…
Although Viola is disguised as a man it does not change the fact that she is a woman who takes on the role as acting as a man. For example, when Cesario/Viola first meets with Olivia he/she is asked what he/she would do if they were in Orsino’s position of being refused by the one he loves (Shakespeare 1203). Cesario/Viola responds, “Make me a willow cabin at your gate / And call upon my soul within the house” (Shakespeare 1203). Viola is envisioning what she would do if she were actually a man. Viola puts herself into the mindset of a man who is constantly being rejected by the woman he loves and what she would do if she were in someone’s place like Orsino if she were a man. At the end of Act 1 Scene 4, Cesario/Viola says, “I’ll do my best / To woo your lady.” (Shakespeare 1197). This is showing Viola also taking on the male’s role, just like Olivia, as the one who has to woo even though she is disguised as Cesario. She may be disguised as a man but she is still a woman. According to Michaela Röll’s article “‘Three’-floating Sexuality: Viola’s Identity in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night” he addresses Cesario/Viola’s role of the wooer. He states, “When Cesario meets Olivia, s/he woos as the representative of Orsino and of the masculine gender.” So, when Cesario/Viola goes to Olivia house for Orsino, he/she is representing Orsino in a way by going in his place to deliver his …show more content…
Orsino loves Olivia, Viola veiled as Cesario loves Orsino, and Olivia loves Cesario. However, both Olivia and Orsino are unaware of Cesario’s true identity. Viola shows that the love triangle has formed after she received a ring from Oliva when she says, “My master loves her dearly, / And I, poor monster, fond as much on him, / And she, mistaken, seems to dote on me” (Shakespeare 1206). Viola finds Olivia love for her or for Cesario to be a “mistake” because she was suppose to fall in love with Orsino instead of Cesario/Viola as well as that she is a women who is in love with someone else. If Viola did not disguise herself she probably would have ended up in a love triangle still, but she would be able to declare her feelings to Orsino because she would be a woman instead of

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