Gender Roles and Sexism in Twelfth Night
Twelfth Night is written in the era where the roles of men and women are severely detached. This is clearly demonstrated through the actions and thoughts of the characters in this play. Sexism, which is related to gender roles, is evident throughout the course of this play and is conveyed in various aspects. A form of gender roles is expressed at the very beginning of the book by Viola. Viola had initially wanted to work in Olivia's court as herself, but the prospect was defeated and so she had to disguise herself as a man to work in Duke Orsinoâ€™s estate. â€œConceal me what I am, and be my aid. For such disguise as haply shall become. The form of my intent. ...view middle of the document...
2.28)... â€œChallenge me the countâ€™s youth to fight with him. Hurt him in eleven places. My niece shall take note of it, and assure thyself, there is no love-broker in the world can more prevail in manâ€™s commendation with woman than report of valorâ€ (3.2.30-35). Through this and many other examples, it is shown that men are supposed to the strong ones, the ones that have to fight, and show valour. This is an example of gender roles within this play. Lastly, a form of sexism is expressed through the Duke to Viola about the way women feel about love.
â€œThey lack retention.
Alas, their love may be called appetite,
No motion of the liver, but the palate,
That suffer surfeit, cloyment, and revolt;
But mine is all as hungry as the sea,
And can digest as much. Make no compare
Between that love a woman can bear me
And that I owe Oliviaâ€ (2.4.94-101).
Orsino articulates his thoughts on the ability of a womanâ€™s capability of loving. His sexist thoughts towards them are contradicted by Viola who is a woman in disguise. This is one of the few examples of sexism where most of the book is filled with gender segregation, and this shows that men question and judge the way a womanâ€™s heart feels. The men and women characters in Twelfth Night have their own definitions and perceptions of everything that is around them. Their thoughts and actions are based on their genders and how they should live their life. The play contains many examples of gender specific roles and traces of sexism. Can you imagine Twelfth Night where all the genders were integrated?
Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night. Ed. Roy, Ken. 1564-1616,