The Chains of Social Hierarchy and Gender Roles Essay

The Chains of Social Hierarchy and Gender Roles Essay

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In William Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night, the use of mistaken identity and role reversal communicates that gender roles and social class are constructed illusions that trick people into having unrealistic expectations about how they are supposed behave.Viola crossdressing as Cesario in the play challenges traditional views of how a woman of her status should act.The differences between the accepted clothing for an individual emphasizes gender roles and social hierarchy in society. During the Renaissance, “ the idea of two genders, one subordinate to the other, provided a key element in its hierarchical view of the social order and to buttress its gendered division of labor” (Howard 423).
According to Elizabethan society, the center of Olivia’s dilemma with her marriage was ensuring her wealth, not marrying a man she loved (Joseph 170). Social class increases division among individuals in society. This play “ is not the story of a Juliet's or an Orlando's love .., but of the very realistic struggles and intrigues over the betrothal of a rich Countess, whose selection of a mate determines the future” (170). Readers looking past these boundaries created by class and gender, can find striking similarities in emotions characters have for each other. The personal struggles the characters face in this play demonstrate the obstacles that individuals faced because of their gender or place in the social hierarchy.
An individual’s identity is determined by how others perceive them and how they perceive themselves. However, its seems as if society’s opinion of an individual has taken precedence over an individual's own judgement. This phenomena has a great effect on the decisions people make. When Olivia mistakenly marries Sebastian and ...


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...erning dunce-caps & diadems]." Essai 8.17 (2011): 43-53. Print.
Howard, Jean E. “Crossdressing, the Theatre, and Gender Struggle in Early Modern England.” Shakespeare Quarterly 39.4 (1988): 418-40. Print.
Joseph, Bertram. Rev. of The Twelfth Night of Shakespeare’s Audience, by John W. Draper. Review of English Studies 3.10 (1952): 170-71. Print.
Logan, Jenkins. “Twelfth Night: The Limits of Festivity.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 22.2 (1982): 223-38. Print.
Schalkwyk, David. “Love and Service in Twelfth Night and the Sonnets.” Shakespeare Quarterly 56.1 (2005): 76-100. Print.
Slights, William W. E. “Maid and Man in ‘Twelfth Night.’” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 80.3 (1981): 327-48. Print.
Williams Jr., Porter. “Mistakes in Twelfth Night and Their Resolution: A Study in Some Relationships of Plot and Theme.” PMLA 76.3 (1961): 193-99. Print.

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