Homoeroticism In Twelfth Night Essay

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Viola hints at her true identity in the first scene of act three in Twelfth Night saying to Olivia: “I am not what I am” (Shakespeare 211). However, it is not just the fictional Viola who masquerades as something she is not. Women were not allowed on stage in Elizabethan England, thus requiring prepubescent boys to act as females (Charles 123). These boys acted as women on stage, and a confusion of character development and intent of these actors stems from cross-dressing. Boys were acting as female characters on stage while these female characters were pretending to be men within the play. Meanwhile, the plot of Twelfth Night explores the ideal of a developing sexual identity as it follows the romantic pursuits of the characters, a complexity …show more content…
Shakespeare uses Elizabethan ideas of male friendship and androgyny as motifs open to further interpretation. Homoeroticism exists not only on the fictional level, amongst the characters, but also in reality due to the necessity for an all male cast. The male actors must have realistically portrayed females, and female characters must have realistically acted as if disguised as a male. The resulting performance must have been enough to appeal not only to the characters within the play, but to audience members as well. Shakespeare “shows that the real power of acting is not in its illusory ability to raise the dead but in its use of fiction to awaken desire and imagination in the living” (Kietzman 278). Twelfth Night prompts the audience to imagine boys as females on stage, and invokes desire for the cross-dressed Cesario. Cross-dressing was an element that both rationalized and heightened the confusion faced by an audience as they witnessed the tale unfold. Shakespeare’s construction of a play prominently featuring cross-dressing on multiple levels reveals homoerotic ideas latent within the period based on the desire for this type of

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