In Shakespeare’s time, women weren’t active on the stage. Instead, the women roles were played by man. However, in some plays of Shakespeare there are women who is seen in men’s clothes such as in The Merchant of Venice and Twelfth Night. In this essay, I will try to analyse the cross-dressing woman who causes both advantage and disadvantage at the same time in Twelfth Night. After a shipwreck in Ilyria, Viola becomes alone as thinking that her twin brother is drowned in the sea.
Viola decides to cress-dress to find herself a safe haven to live and survive. She becomes a messenger for the Duke Orsino as a boy and becomes Cesario. Cesario fetches messages from Orsino to mournful Olivia whom Orsino is in love with. While Viola finds herself a safe place and a job, she comes across a difficult situation because she falls in love with Orsino as being properly feminine. Since she is disguised as a boy, this love seems to be almost impossible.
However, as a loyal messenger, she continues to fetch messages.
At this point, the situation gets more absurd and comic because the mournful Olivia -after her father’s and brother’s death- becomes attracted by beautiful Cesario. She doesn’t accept Orsino’s love but find herself interested in this beautiful messenger. Now, Viola’s cross-dressing becomes a disadvantage and causes absurd moments when Olivia tries to appeal Cesario sexually. On the other hand, Cesario finds an escape from this homosexual situation by her twin brother Sebastian when he goes to Olivia’s house.
Olivia thinking Sebastian as Cesario proposes a marriage. Being confused by this abrupt proposal, Sebastien thinks that either him or Olivia mad but accepts her marriage proposal. When Sebastian comes across Viola, everybody -Olivia, Orsino, Feste the fool- is confused and surprised but Viola’s real identity is revealed and everything gets clear. With this reveal, Viola can become herself again safely. Orsino seeing Cesario’s real identity falls in love with Viola and Viola’s impossible love can come true.
This reveal provides another advantage for Orsino because Viola saves Orsino from his suffer for Olivia’s love. Orsino: Give me thy hand; And let me see thee in thy woman’s weeds. (Act V, Scene I) Inspite of this mistaken identity of Viola, Viola can voice herself in disguise of a man and becomes a mouthpiece for women. Orsino narcisstically thinks that he as a man loves a woman more than she can love a man. However, Viola as Cesario protests this idea and suggest;
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