Same Sex Love In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

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As already mentioned, in Shakespeare 's times the man had the upper hand when it came to love, courtship and marriage. The woman, the submissive vessel, had to abide by the decisions made by her father or brother. Yet, in Twelfth Night these gender roles seem to be re-written, in some respects. Olivia 's wooing of Cesario would be one such instance. Sir Toby tells Sir Andrew of his niece that she has sworn not to marry anyone above her in station, age or wit. He is, ofcourse, not a very reliable source, but if his words are true then Olivia seems to be as determined as any man to marry the one of her choice. This could account for her reluctance to accept the Duke, who is accounted by all to be a good man. Financially independent, she is…show more content…
The friendship between Orsino and Cesario reinforces the concept of same sex love. Valerie Traub 's essay “The Homoerotics of Shakespearean Comedy” (1992) presents the duke as a man torn between his heterosexual desire for Olivia and his homoerotic fondness for Cesario. When the Duke sends him on the mission to court Olivia, he tells the young messenger that his (Cesario 's) lips are as “smooth” and “rubious” as Diana 's and that his countenance and voice are apt for the task. There is an almost loverlike aspect to Orsino 's appraisal of Cesario 's beauty. Similarly, in the last scene when Cesario proclaims that he is willing to die “jocund, apt and willingly....a thousand deaths” to satisfy Orsino, it is an avowal of his love for his master. However, as in Feste 's song, “death” can be read in its sexual connotation, which would then imply that Cesario is willing to sleep with his master. The fact that it is Viola, a woman, who utters these words lends a certain 'legitimacy ' to the sentiment. Orsino eventually proposes to Viola for her “service done [to] him/ So much against the mettle of...[her]...sex” (V.v). Quite apparently he seems delighted with her 'masculine ' traits. Maslen writes- “...it’s her ability not to be the ideal passive woman he has so far imagined for himself that most delights him about her. In token of this delight, he continues to call her “Cesario” long after he has learned her identity...thus preserving our sense of their relationship as a…show more content…
The love triangle that is formed is complete because Orsino loves Olivia, who loves 'Cesario ' and Viola, dressed as Cesario loves Orsino. It is a Gordian knot, until the appearance of Sebastian. Like the Deus ex machina of the Greek plays all the problems are now resolved. Olivia cannot have the lover of her preference as that turns out to be a woman. She gets the next best thing- a man who is an almost replica of her Cesario. The Duke is suddenly left without an ideal and his only hope of finding love is to settle for the woman who loves him. This he does with surprisingly good grace. Thus, everything is settled happily. The men (Orsino and Sebastian) have done little in pursuing love, are chosen by their respective partners and have only to
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