Twelfth Night Gender Analysis

1398 Words 6 Pages
After all the inadvertent gayness, cases of mistaken identity, and awkward sexual tension present in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, our protagonist, Viola, finds herself preparing for the marriage festivities at the end the final act. Heteronormativity has been reinstated with the correcting of the vaguely gendered parings: Viola finally gets to be with her darling Duke Orsino, and Olivia seems pleased with her replacement Cesario, Sebastian. A deeper analysis of the play, however, proposes that the significance of these romantic couples is not to institute heterosexuality as the societal norm, but rather challenge the idea that gender and sexuality are social constructs. Over the course of the play, the characters demonstrate how gender is not …show more content…
Instead, she conjures elements from both genders and fluidly shifts between them in order to best handle whatever scenario is thrown her way. In her first scene with Olivia, Viola (dressed as Cesario) uses her personal knowledge of the female mind along with her genderless appearance to win over the maiden’s attention. Similarly, Viola trusts her womanly point of view and individual experiences when conversing about the nature of love with Orsino. After being constantly rejected by Olivia, the Duke dismisses the woman’s capacity to love. With the authority of a male comrade, Viola (dressed as Cesario) corrects Orsino’s rudeness and view on female love by saying that she knows “too well what love women to men may own. In faith, they are as true of heart as we” …show more content…
Although she is in love with him, Viola must not act on her affections. She can only faintly hint at her feelings, merging her female persona with her sexual ambiguity and vaguely masculine appearance. When talking to Orsino she says “My father had a daughter loved a man/As might it be, perhaps, were I a woman/I should your lordship” (2.4.107-109). After telling an account of a sister, the Duke asks if the sister died of sorrow. Here Viola further condenses the space between the male and female genders in her response: “I am all the daughters of my father’s house, And all the brothers, too- and yet I know not” (2.4.120-121). This mix-gendered language proposes that the male and female genders are comparable and, therefore, interchangeable identities. Moreover, Viola’s constant ability to swiftly adopt, shed, and mix female and male aspects in order to acclimate to her ever-changing environment lends itself the perception that gender identity exists on a sliding scale rather than as a stern male-female binary. Despite her disguise maintaining her well-being, Viola’s juggling of the two identities comes at a great cost for her romantic life. Though she is allowed to be in continuous contact with her beloved, her androgynous cloak prevents her from openly confessing her love to Duke Orsino in a manner that would be considered socially

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