Shakespeare and drag? We knew he could think outside of the box, but who could have guessed he had such a unique sense of humor? Casts the ending to Romeo and Juliet in a whole new light, if you think about it (but maybe you shouldn't)
|Author||Shakespeare - William Shakespeare|
has been shipwrecked on the island of Illyria <<uh-leer-ee-uh>>.
Well... almost. She puts on a man's clothes and calls herself Cesario <<suh-zar-ee-oh>>.
She never actually does the hula.
So... why did Shakespeare think that it wasn't such a drag for one of his characters to...
What point was he trying to get across with all this cross-dressing?
Well... when Viola entered the service of Duke Orsino, disguised as Cesario, she ended
up spending a lot of time talking with the duke.
Maybe Shakespeare has Viola pretend to be a man because that sets the drama of Orsino's
story in motion. See, not only does Viola fall in love with the duke...
...but he unwittingly has his good buddy Cesario go to a young lady named Olivia to profess
love on his behalf.
Olivia promptly falls head over heels for Cesario, who, of course, is actually a girl.
But maybe it wasn't so much about the demands of the story. Was Shakespeare simply interested
in the gender dynamics of the Elizabethan age?
During his time, women didn't act in the theater. Instead, the character of Viola would have
been played by a boy...
...a boy playing a girl who's pretending to be a boy.
Wrap your head around that one, Tootsie. It could be that Shakespeare just wanted to
explore the idea of gender as a fluid part of our identity, rather than as a set of rules
imposed on us by society.
After all, Viola doesn't pretend to be Cesario forever.
Ultimately, her twin brother, Sebastian, marries Olivia, after Olivia mistakes him for Cesario.
This forces Cesario to reveal that he is, in fact, a chick named Viola. Now that Olivia's
no longer in the picture, Duke Orsino decides to marry his former best friend.
So what was Billy Shakes' main reason for writing this... transgender-bender?
Did he set out to use cross-dressing as a dramatic tool?
Did he want to provide us with a window into Elizabethan gender dynamics?
Or was he making a statement about love... that it's more about what you've got between
your ears than what you've got... between your legs?
Shmoop amongst yourselves.