How Does Shakespeare Represent Same-Sex and Opposite-Sex Relationships in the Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night

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Shakespearean plays have often stressed the importance of relationships between men and women; most of Shakespeare's plays, tragedies and comedies, involve romance between males and females, but the relationships that are far more poignant and effective in the play seem to be the relationships between the plays' same sex characters. Examples of important same- and opposite-sex relationships appear in both of Shakespeare's comedic plays Twelfth Night and Much Ado About Nothing. Twelfth Night and Much Ado About Nothing center around the intricate and sometimes extremely confusing relationships among the plays' characters. These two plays also examine how the relationships between the major characters begin, evolve through the course of the play, and the state of that relationship at the end of the play. These relationships often are brought about through deception and confusion and these attributes often drive the course of the play. How Shakespeare portrays relationships among men and women, men and men, and men and women illustrates the social dynamic of the time period and what I believe to be the ultimate repression of women and their roles in society.

In Twelfth Night, most of the important relationships are based on the deception of Viola. Viola's chooses to disguise herself as a man in Illyria, thus driving the action of the play. "Conceal me what I am, and be my aid / For such disguise as haply shall become / The form of my intent" (Shakespeare (2) 50); with this decision Viola causes, not only the confusion in the play, but the final outcome as well. Viola's gender switch also illustrates the fact that relationships between women and men are ultimately unequal. The only relationship that existed between a man and a woman that appeared to be equal was the relationship between Olivia and Cesario / Viola. The fact that the only relationship that incorporated equality between a male and a female turns out to be a relationship between two women...
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