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Essay on As You Like It and Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

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Shakespearean subtext has been of interest for centuries, to professional scholars and English students and Shakespeare fanatics alike. To most, the subtext is just as important as the writing itself, and this is understandable. Two plays in particular—As You Like It and Twelfth Night—rely significantly on subtext. The audience’s interpretation is based entirely on what is shown to them, including the subtext, and this is on both the playwright’s and the actors’ parts: how it is written, and how it is played. Throughout the ages, implications of homosexual desire have been a matter of dangerous controversy. In the modern world, the gay community is of course more tolerated, and becoming more and more accepted as the struggle for equality continues. In William Shakespeare’s time, there was no such thing as the concept of homosexuality (or sodomy, as it was called back then) being acceptable in any sense—except, perhaps, in comedy. Shakespeare exploits this opportunity quite successfully in the “transvestite comedies” aforementioned, if it is at all indicated by the attention received for the blatant plot twists such as cross-dressing and lovers confused about whom it is that they actually love, and the more subtle, perhaps not even intentional but certainly open-for-interpretation exploration into human nature regarding sexual and/or romantic attraction. Within these themes are distinct similarities and dissimilarities—the former being other women falling in love with the gender-bent characters, and there being happy endings albeit with certain twists; the latter being the specific differences in the relationship dynamic between Antonio and Sebastian in Twelfth Night and everyone else’s dynamics.
In both As You Like It (AYLI) and ...


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...ll—signify a significant amount of obvious wordplay (impressive in just a few words), and they indicate that the audience should take the ideas presented in each comedy only as seriously as they would prefer. This lends back to the concept of the requirement of audience interpretation in order for there to be any drama or comedy perceived at all. Shakespeare certainly gives modern analyzers of his work an opportunity to look at what could now be considered sexual orientation. Therefore, the various twists and turns in the plot, and naturally the study of the complications of gender-bending (which is of the greatest interest in both plays), create a comedic examination of homosexual desire (for there really was no way other than comedic to bring the subject to light)—or whatever.


Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. As You Like It.
Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night.


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