Twelfth Night Gender

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“In Twelfth Night conventional expectations repeatedly give way to a different mode of perceiving the world” (Greenblatt 1187). This is exactly what happens when a closer look is given to the way Shakespeare addresses the concepts of gender and morality in the play. The audience of the day who accepted a distinct division of gender into masculinity and femininity – based on sex – and of morality based on absolute good and bad was given a different interpretation of these taken-for-granted definitions. The culture of 17th century England laid the foundation for Shakespeare to use specific character traits to nudge the audience to question its perception of gender and morality and to show how these concepts function to keep social behavior…show more content…
The Puritans denounced the entire Elizabethan festive calendar (Greenblatt 1187). They accused the theatre of paganism and proliferating sins such as idleness and sexual promiscuity. As Tilley points out, their list of acceptable activities and behaviors grew narrower and narrower, until nearly all pleasures of life had been banished. “As a result the puritans stood out prominently and disagreeably in the mind of the average man of the street in Shakespeare's day, for their hostile attitude towards pleasure, and their zeal in trying to force their opinion upon others” (Tilley 552). They not only wanted to refrain from engaging in what they saw as immoral recreation, but they wanted to keep others from engaging in it…show more content…
Males are free to move about in the arena of masculine roles, but are constrained when it comes to feminine roles and vice versa for females. In Elizabethan England, when Twelfth Night was performed on stage, women were excluded from participating and all female roles were played by adolescent boys (Greenblatt 1187). No matter how skillful these boy actors were in transforming themselves with gestures and costumes and entertaining the audience, they were still playing the role of a woman. Audiences had to accept a “representation of femininity” and this representation undoubtedly reinforced gender norms since it had to be

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