Review | Twelfth Night by Shakespeare

#QOTD – Are you guilty of gender biasness and stereotyping?

Biasness and stereotyping is something that most of us do it unconsciously or sometimes consciously. We try not to do it but are we always successful? I have rejected pink because it is a girl’s colour. I have judged my husband when I saw that he couldn’t open a jar lid, whereas I could. I have been proud when I see a man helping in regular household chores, but have never been proud when a woman does the same. Sex is a function of biological traits whereas gender is a social construction, and this construct changes over time and varies across different cultures.

In the play Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare challenges the very traditional norms for both women and men. The protagonist Viola finds a way out of these limitations placed upon her by society by dressing in male attire and taking on the role of a male in order to obtain a job. The plot explores the way Viola is treated by the other characters and how she acts while being a man, and how differently men and women relate to one another based on the perceived differences between the genders.

The story goes like this. The play opens with a shipwreck on the coast of the fictional town of Illyria. The twins Viola and Sebastian were onboard of the crashed vessel but they lose sight of each other amidst the chaos and they both assume the other is dead. A chain of improbable events lead to several impersonations and mistaken identities that involve gender and class transformation, setting a hilarious love triangle full of love, desire and confusion! Duke Orsino is in love with Olivia. Viola falls in love with Orsino, while disguised as his pageboy, Cesario. Olivia falls in love with Cesario, who is actually Viola!

There is an ambiguity in gender identity in this play which has been characterized by the existence of a disguise. The time when this play was penned down, the society would not talk about sex and gender the way we would today, but Twelfth Night creates humour for the audience with same sex attraction.


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