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Twelfth Night, or What You Will Gender Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Norton edition.

Quote #7

Too well what love women to men may owe.
In faith, they are as true of heart as we.
My father had a daughter loved a man
As it might be, perhaps, were I a woman,
I should your lordship. (2.4.116-120)

OK, now this is more like it. Here, Viola defends the ladies to Orsino's claim that women are incapable of love and depth of feeling. We also like the crafty way Viola reveals her love to the Duke without him knowing that 1) she's in love with him and 2) she's her "father's daughter." Clever girl. Seems like women are capable of "retention" after all (see discussion of 2.4.16 above).

Quote #8

Go, Sir Andrew. Scout me for him at the corner
the orchard like a bum-baily. So soon as ever
thou seest him, draw, and as thou draw'st, swear
horrible; for it comes to pass oft that a terrible oath,
with a swaggering accent sharply twanged off, gives
manhood more approbation than ever proof itself
would have earned him. Away! (3.4.184-190)

When Toby tricks Sir Andrew into picking a fight with "Cesario" to impress Olivia, he gives voice to the notion that "manhood" is synonymous with "swaggering" and fighting. (It's so not. Keep reading.)

Quote #9

Pray God defend me! Aside. A little thing
make me tell them how much I lack of a
man. (3.4.314-316)

When "Cesario" (Viola in disguise) prays that she doesn't get pummeled in the duel with Sir Andrew, she makes a joke about what she "lack[s]." Read alone, this passage would seem to suggest that being born with a penis somehow predisposes one to picking and winning a fight. However, given the fact that Sir Andrew was born with a penis and is a total coward, it seems that the play is pointing out that one's sex doesn't necessarily determine whether or not someone will be brave.

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