Twelfth Night and Sexuality Essay

Twelfth Night and Sexuality Essay

Length: 1390 words (4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Strong Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

An Imitation of Ignorance


The play Twelfth Night encapsulates what it meant to be a man and women throughout
the 16th century. The roles of each gender were set in stone, and one could not
publicly cross over under any circumstances. During Shakespearean times women were
not even allowed to portray themselves on stage, men played their roles instead. In
my opinion Shakespeare uses the play to show the hypocrisy of the status quo that
held people from expressing their true identity. Twelfth Night demonstrates that
professions should not be given on a gender basis, skill should be the only
consideration. During the play one sees that only through imitation of another
gender can a person reverse the roles, which they are bonded to. In Twelfth Night
imitation of another gender is done both out of necessity, and for revenge. In
Twelfth Night one’s sexual preference was not a reason for gender reversal.
Viola/Cesario who has just lost her brother in a shipwreck feels that she needs to
dress as a man to survive on the island of Illyria. “And what should I do in
Illyria? My brother he is in Elysium. Perchance his not drown’d what you think.”
Viola changes her name to Cesario and begins her new life as a man. Viola/Cesario
crosses the boundaries and becomes Orsino’s best servant. This portrayal of a woman
successfully imitating a man is an obvious denouncement of the so-called gender roles
of the Elizabethan era. Throughout the play imitation is used for revenge and plays
an integral role in the lives of a few supporting characters. In this scenario it is
used to deceive Malvolio, a pompous servant, to teach him a lesson in his relations
with other people. Shakespeare makes it clear that deception, when used for
entertainment, can be very destructive.
Twelfth Night deals with problems that occur when somebody is forced to imitate
another sex, or another person. “Pray God defend me! A little thing would make me
tell them how much I lack of a man.” These problems are demonstrated through sexual
tension between almost all of the characters. The characters seem to accomplish most
of their set goals, but somehow something impedes them from flawless imitation.
Viola/Cesario is distressed and has no idea how to live without a proper income. She
lives in a society that only allows men to work certain types of jobs. These
professions are the ones that bring in most of t...


... middle of paper ...


...exual contact, the audience did
not seem stunned. The audience appeared to accept that Viola/Cesario was actually a
woman, and the love that encapsulated Orsino and Olivia was blind to gender. The
audience also completely disregarded gender, and agreed with Shakespeare that true
love draws no boundaries. One also became aware that Viola/Cesario could perform the
tasks that were asked of her. She even proved to do her job exceptionally and became
Orsino’s best servant. The performance attacked those who are ignorant enough to
hold opinions that hinder the advancements of both homosexuals and women. By using
subtle examples of political viewpoints, Shakespeare addresses issues that are
important to everyday society. He acknowledges the fact Elizabethan society prohibits
him from making blatant statements, which go against the moral majority. Shakespeare
shows his mastery of the English language by eluding these rules and attacking the
subconscious of the audience. One leaves the theatre with a lingering feeling of
guilt, which one cannot be understand at the time. The feeling is comprehended at a
later time and one begins to question stereotypes, which are dominant in society
today.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Twelfth Night and Sexuality Essay

- An Imitation of Ignorance The play Twelfth Night encapsulates what it meant to be a man and women throughout the 16th century. The roles of each gender were set in stone, and one could not publicly cross over under any circumstances. During Shakespearean times women were not even allowed to portray themselves on stage, men played their roles instead. In my opinion Shakespeare uses the play to show the hypocrisy of the status quo that held people from expressing their true identity. Twelfth Night demonstrates that professions should not be given on a gender basis, skill should be the only consideration....   [tags: essays research papers]

Strong Essays
1390 words (4 pages)

William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: Malvolio the Outcast...Sort Of Essay

- In William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Malvolio is considered an outcast by everyone else in the play except Olivia. He doesn’t act the same way that any of the other characters act, and he seems to be a real stickler for the rules, which upsets certain characters more than others. But it is this strict coherence to the rules that allows Malvolio to have such a high position in Olivia’s household. While Malvolio may be considered an outcast to most of the characters in the play, Olivia shows concern for Malvolio and his well-being....   [tags: Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, ]

Strong Essays
709 words (2 pages)

Types of Love exposed in Twelfth Night Essay

- The Merriam Webster dictionary defines love as “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person” - however, this does not encompass a fraction of the feeling a person has when he or she loves something. Because the sensation differs from one person to the next, there is no possible way to accurately define love. However, it is possible to try to understand love by breaking it down into several categories. Humans have been pondering this idea for centuries, with one of the earliest examples being found in the Christian Bible....   [tags: twelfth night, shakespeare, love, orsino]

Strong Essays
1426 words (4.1 pages)

Twelfth Night Comedy by Shakespeare and Its Effect on Other Writings Essay

- Twelfth Night Comedy by Shakespeare and Its Effect on Other Writings While Great Expectations and Gulliver’s Travels were not written as comedy, humor is seen in them. The comedy in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night can be related to the comedy in those writings, although Shakespeare used a variety of comedic techniques, not used in either Great Expectations or Gulliver’s Travels. The comedy in Twelfth Night varies greatly from the comedy in Great Expectations and Gulliver’s Travels at times. Irony is a common comedic element seen in all three works....   [tags: William Shakespeare Twelfth Night Essays]

Strong Essays
1983 words (5.7 pages)

Essay William Shakespeare 's Twelfth Night

- Twelfth Night is often portrayed with contrasting themes, however, it is arguable that Shakespeare emphasises concealment and flawed characteristics in many of the characters, as a reoccurring theme. In order to entertainingly explore the potentially controversial, oppressing and uncomfortable ideas, such as sexuality or secrecy, Shakespeare delivers them in a comedic approach or concealed manner. In particular, Shakespeare uses trickery to take countless forms in his plays which is often through the humorous accidental encounters of The Comedy of Errors....   [tags: Twelfth Night, Love, Comedy, The Comedy of Errors]

Strong Essays
1034 words (3 pages)

William Shakespeare 's Twelfth Night Essay

- William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night has many cases of mistaken identity. The characters use their hidden identity to find truth and declare love. In Twelfth Night the main characters of Violas gender identity reveal a nature of sexual identity. Violas constructing identity, manipulation and power will be used to fool several characters. As a result, both Olivia and Orsino will be seduced by a visual perception of Cesario who in reality is Viola through the ability of crossdressing. Even though this situation can cause many problems the author uses gender identity to imply that distinctions between male/female are not as absolutely firm as the viewer might think....   [tags: Gender, Gender identity, Love, Heteronormativity]

Strong Essays
1108 words (3.2 pages)

Sexuality in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare Essay

- “...So long as men can breathe or eyes can see/So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” So ends the famous Sonnet 18, possibly Shakespeare’s best-loved sonnet of all. Shakespeare’s fame today comes almost exclusively for his writing that deals with feelings of love. Sonnet 18. Romeo and Juliet. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Hamlet and Ophelia and Antipholus and Luciana and Beatrice and Benedick and Antony and Cleopatra. All these examples of the guy falling in love with the girl and skipping off into the sunset with her....   [tags: hamlet, ophelia, viola]

Strong Essays
952 words (2.7 pages)

Twelfth Night By William Shakespeare Essay

- The play, Twelfth Night, written by William Shakespeare was originally written and intended to be performed by males. Twelfth Night developed as a center of discussion for homosexuality and homoeroticism, which are presented in the play. This is seen between the characters, Antonio and Sebastian, and Viola. As seen in the play, a lady called Viola also disguised as Cesario. To survive in Illyria, Viola decided to act as a male to be able to secure a job as a eunuch for Duke Orsino who she later developed feelings for....   [tags: Gender role, Gender, Homosexuality, Transgender]

Strong Essays
1489 words (4.3 pages)

Essay on William Shakespeare 's Twelfth Night

- In Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night the great bard uses humor and mistaken identity not only to poke fun at romantic stories of “perfect love” and the foolish behavior of the aristocrats, but also to reveal man’s anxieties surrounding courtship, gender performance, and love as a whole. The portion of the play I have chosen to analyze are lines 188-256 in Act 5 scene one when Sebastian enters the stage and discovers Viola alive. The siblings give information about themselves to determine each other’s identity before Viola finally reveals herself to be female, allowing the farce to come to an end and the characters to return to their normal roles....   [tags: Gender role, Gender, Gender identity, Transgender]

Strong Essays
2046 words (5.8 pages)

Essay Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

- Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare When Shakespeare wrote the 12th night the social mores were very strict. For example servants were not allowed to woo their masters but in the 12th night these rules of society were corrupted for example. Olivia loving cesario but Olivia doesn't realise that cesario is really a man and that links with cesario because she was a very wealthy woman but in an instant she becomes a servant also she is in mourning for her brother but now she is very joyful and in love....   [tags: Papers]

Free Essays
586 words (1.7 pages)