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Examining Viola's Character In Twelfth Night By William Shakespeare

1287 words - 5 pages

Examining the relationship between speech, public space and authority for Viola's Character in Twelfth Night

One of the most celebrated and authoritative women in the 16th century was Elizabeth I. Even though the authority was at woman's hands at that time, a dominant woman was unnatural in the society itself. The presence of such a powerful female figure creates an interesting situation for dramatists and playwrights in terms of depicting women's status at that time. By using the psychological concept ,liminality; I am going to examine the relationship between Viola's speech , society's authority and her public space which is consists of two main parts: her private life as Viola and her public life as Cesario and how this relationship has a great impact upon her character development.
The liminality can be defined as a psychological state when a person wavers between two worlds. The character's life can be defined as both destructive and creative. His/her identity is uncertain due to a conflict.As for Viola the possible death of her brother and her disguise place her on the margin of her public and private life. This concept exploits one of the Elizabethan stereotypes which is the uncertainty of the sexual identity. To carry this concept further, shakespearean theater overrides these views by having a male actor plays a female role. Meanwhile, it presents Viola in order to convey female capabilities and instincts by her physical transformation to a male in a compelling society.
The liminality in performing Twelfth Night lies in sexual ambiguity on the stage. It enables a boy actor to play viola's role and disguised as a boy who is wooing another boy who plays a female role . The audience sees no more than a physical appearance; however , the boy players' soliloquy, monologue, and asides remind them of their gender roles. Such these practices in Shakespearean theater double the humor simultaneously; however, it contributes to the development of Viola's character in the play itself in which she finds herself in between two worlds: feminism and masculinely.
The role of male actors in the theater brings into account women's role as well as contradicts the concept of men's cross dressing. In the 16th century, women were not allowed to act on the stage. If they have done so, they would have been scorned by society and considered to be lewd and immoral. Thomas Coryat , English traveller , wrote in his Coryat's Crudities in 1611, a travelogue ,about his experience in Venice "I saw women acte, a thing that I never saw before, though I have heard that it hath beene sometimes used in London". Women at court ;however, perform in private performances for Elizabeth and her guests. In the society, women were subservient to their fathers, brothers, or guardian and subsequently to their husbands. Their s reputation is protected by them. Their role is to be fit for homemaking and child-bearing and ;moreover to accept her lesser status....

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