In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the young Viola, having once lost her brother in a shipwreck, realizes that dressing up as a boy herself is the best way to continue living and thriving and looking for him. This play shows how much respect Shakespeare had for women more than ever, as Viola can do anything that a man can do. In addition to that, the serving-woman Maria proves herself perfectly capable of tricking Malvolio, enough so to make everyone in town to think he has gone completely mad. Both of these women are headstrong and sure of themselves and just itching to prove to the men in the play that none of them can think of themselves as better than the women.
Equality of religion isn’t much talked about in this play, but equality of class is definitely a running theme. Admittedly, the majority of the cast are nobles or at least wealthily born, but Maria and the fool provide an interesting look at the lower class of Shakespeare’s time. Everyone treats Maria as an equal, and Sir Toby even finds her desirable despite her low ranking. She manages to trick someone of the higher class, proving to everyone that though she may be a serving woman, she’s cunning enough to run circles around the rest of them. The fool, Feste, is also an interesting case. In act three, scene one, he talks briefly with Viola about the importance of the fool. “Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun; it shines everywhere,” he tells her. He discusses how much more important the fool is than they realize. He’s responsible for bringing the town laughter and cheer, yet when the time comes for them to thank him he can hardly scrape up enough money to feed his family for a day. Just like Shylock in Merchant, Feste only wishes to be treated the same as those above him.
In terms of LGBT support, this play pretty much has all bases covered. For example. everyone in the play instantly accepts Viola cross-dressing once she reveals herself to them. Orsino must logically have been bi if he’s in love with a woman that he thought of as a man for the whole play. Some even theorise that Antonio, Sebastian’s best friend, loves him. Thanks to all of this diversity of character sexuality and gender roles, struggling LGBT youth love this play, quote it, remake it(In the research for this paper I found an advertisement for a play entitled “Gender Comedy: A Less Stupid Twelfth Night Gay Fantasia” which the description promised is full of robots, drunkards, and men in tights making out), and use it to help them come out and realise who they are. Twelfth Night is Shakespeare’s best play in terms of LGBT support.
Meanwhile, in the 21st century, great things have happened for equality. Laverne Cox has become the first trans woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream television show, Orange is the New Black, more states and countries have legalized same-sex marriage every day, and the homophobic population is slowly going down as people become more educated about different...