Gender and Sexuality
February 22, 2012
Twelfth Night is a complex story that touches on the ideas of love, gender roles, and life's tragic and comic experiences. There are numerous layers to the characters' gender roles, as well as to their sexual attractions. The sexual relationships and gender roles in Twelfth Night are multi-layered. For example, Viola, a female character, who was played by a male, is dressed as the male character, Cesario, throughout most of the play. As a male, Viola sways Olivia to fall for Orsino, resulting in Olivia falling in love with Viola-as-Cesario. At the same time, Viola, though dressed as a man, falls in love with Orsino. Everyone is confused about what his or her gender roles are exactly. The relationship between financial dependency and sexual availability shows the play's attitudes towards cross-dressing. Both Viola and Sebastian, are forced to seek dependent positions in households outside the circle of family relations, making Viola/Cesario sexually available to Orsino, and Sebastian sexually available to Olivia. In his analysis of gender issues in Twelfth Night, emphasizes the theatrical practice of men playing women's parts. There is a sense of psychological anxiety resulting from the theatrical portrayal of both sexual and emotional intimacy, specifically the relationship between Viola and Olivia, in which the audience witnesses the intensity of the exchanges between two women, played by two men, and the relationship between Orsino and Viola, in which Orsino is drawn to the feminine qualities of Viola's Cesario. The relationship between Viola and Olivia is a significant one. The relationship between the two women, along with the attractions between Antonio and Sebastian and Orsino and Cesario, emphasize that same sex attraction desire is a primary concern in the play. These same sex relationships are a dramatization of the attractions and the social ideal of “heterosexuality” by highlighting...