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The Two Gentlemen of Verona Theme of Gender

In Two Gentlemen of Verona, we see some blatantly sexist attitudes that echo common sixteenth-century attitudes toward women. In the play, various characters suggest that women are fickle, deceptive, incapable of meaningful relationships, and have the capacity to transform the men into fools. Women are also treated as personal property in the play. However, at the same time that women are treated as property that can be stolen, traded, or bestowed to other men as "gifts," the play also seems to hint at the dangers of viewing women this way. Shakespeare also creates two very strong heroines in Julia and Silvia, who are gutsy, loyal, and steadfast. In the play, Shakespeare also draws our attention to the slipperiness of gender when Julia cross-dresses and passes herself off as "Sebastian."

Questions About Gender

  1. What preparations must Julia make before she travels? Do the male characters ever take similar precautions?
  2. How does "Sebastian" blur traditional ideas about gender?
  3. How would you describe the play's overall attitude toward women? Do you think the play's female characters are more admirable than the male characters?
  4. Why does Thurio say he no longer wishes to marry Silvia in Act 5, Scene 4?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In the play, Proteus, Valentine, and the Duke see women as objects that can be possessed, stolen, or exchanged as "gifts" between men.

In the play, Silvia and Julia are the most admirable characters because they're gutsy and loyal.

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