Gender Roles In Twelfth Night

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Gender in Shakespeare’s plays with a special reference to Twelfth Night The Renaissance Society viewed men’s and women’s role differently. Men were seen as having the ruling voice as fathers ,husbands ,masters ,teachers ,preachers ,soldiers ,lords etc. The public life was virtually impossible for women and indeed having a public reputation would generally involved a woman in scandal. There were exceptions such as Queen Elizabeth and Bess of Hardwick but the rule was to see women as at their best when they were obedient and submissive. Women were valued only for their physical features and beauty. The feminine virtues which were praised were obedience ,silence ,sexual chastity ,humility ,constancy and patience. Married women had virtually…show more content…
1. Julia in The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1594). In order to act freely in a patriarchal society, Julia transforms herself into a boy to pursue her lover. 2. Portia in The Merchant of Venice (1596). Portia disguises herself as a man in order to travel to Venice and as a lawyer to enter the courtroom. 3. Viola in Twelfth Night (1600). Viola becomes a eunuch in order to win Duke Orsino’s love. 4. Rosalind in As You Like It (1600). Rosalind acts as a shepherd to escape from Duke Frederick and to test Orlando’s love. Now let us discuss about the gender issues in Twelfth Night as it is our main lookout. Orsino’s reference to the ‘perspective’ reproduces the problem of gender in the play( are women and men twins in their mental and emotional abilities? Do they have fundamentally different perspectives?). But it also evokes the play’s twin issues: the relationship between status and gender. The play infact treats these issues as reflections of each other. Viola’s relationship to Orsino includes both that of woman to man and that of servant to master. More complexly Viola’s relationship to Orsino mirrors Malvolio’s relationship to Olivia , both servants wanted to marry their masters, both men in these pairs are self-obsessed, both women seem far more intelligent than their male counterparts. Shakespeare considers the compatibility of servants and masters as he considers the comparability of men and women. When Orsino recognizes the ‘impropriety’ of Viola’s service to him, he puts it in terms of gender and status: So much against the mettle of sex, So far beneath your soft and tender breeding
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