Wait, He’s a Women?

Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s comedies in which a female character, Viola, disguises herself as a man. The play is a mess of lovers who don’t really know who they are falling in love with. Throughout the whole play, Viola is in love with a man named Orsino. However, she cannot tell him this because he believes that she is, in fact, a man. While Viola falls in love with Orsino, Olivia starts to fall in love with Viola in her disguise as Cesario. This is an issue because Oliva is the object of Orsino’s affection. There are obvious homoerotic undertones going on in Twelfth Night.

Olivia is in love with a woman, even though she does not know she is a woman, and Orsino often comments on how attractive Cesario is. This could suggest that he is attracted to Viola before her true identity is reveled. This homoerotic nature is also found in a minor character Antonio, who is deeply and blatantly in love with his friend, Sebastian. He cannot act on his actions, however, because Sebastian is not a homosexual male. Shakespeare leaves the reader unsatisfied with the relationship between Orsino and Viola. After discovering that she is a woman, Orsino proclaims his love to her. However, even though everything has come onto the table Orsino continues to call Viola by her male name. “Cesario, come— / For so you shall be while you are a man; / But when in other habits you are seen, / Orsino’s mistress, and his fancy’s queen”. (V.i.381-384)  The reader can wonder whether or not Orsino is actually in love with Viola or just her male persona.


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