Twelfth Night Gender Analysis

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In regards to William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the topic of gender seems quite controversial in terms of it ambiguous nature within the play. The source of the whole mess can be traced back to when Viola emerges from the sea with the resolution to dress as a man and serve the noble Duke Orsino. Her idea to crossdress is the origin of a chaotic confusion of carnal captivation which ends the same way it began-- somewhat obscure. This, in turn, generates the question: does Shakespeare’s ambiguity regarding gender create a sense of homoeroticism within the play?
In Act 1, Scene 4, it does not take long to realize that Viola (who is using the name Cesario to conceal her identity) has fallen in love with Duke Orsino in a matter of three days: “Whoe’er I woo, myself would be his wife” (1. 4. 41). She cannot, however disclose her feelings for the Duke because she is in the guise of a man. Interestingly, in the same scene we see that the Duke himself is not completely blind to Cesario/Viola’s attractiveness-- he even comments on it in the lines, “...Diana’s lip/ Is not more smooth and rubious; thy small pipe/ Is as the maiden’s organ…” (30-32). This could suggest that Orsino was attracted to Viola even before she revealed her true identity as a woman. Furthermore, even after Viola does remove her male disguise, Orsino seems reluctant to refer to her as a woman and still calls her “boy” and “Cesario” (5. 1. 258 & 370).
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With his repeated acknowledgements to Viola’s male persona, it appears that Orsino may prefer “Cesario” over Viola. Olivia, on the other hand, seems quite content to show her affection for Viola regardless of what her true identity is. In both of these instances, there is sufficient evidence to support the fact that Shakespeare’s ambiguity regarding gender create a sense of homoeroticism within the
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