The Struggle of Femininity

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The Struggle of Femininity: Twelfth Night Femininity and masculinity as defined by Elizabethan culture are two elements of the construction of gender that are not binary. Femininity applies to masculinity only as a deviant to male qualities; therefore the concept of a female entering the realm of the masculine by means of disguise as portrayed in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night brings the separation of gender into question. Viola deconstructs and suspends her role as a female and by the physical elusion of her femininity conflict as well as question within her gender arises. Through a façade as a male Viola gains a new agency that allows her to abandon her position as the inferior female in a hierarchal culture and exercise the independence allotted to males. The opening scene reveals a situation of conflict; Viola’s reaction denotes strength and emotional stability which are not characteristic of females. Viola forms the foil to Olivia and Orsinio who are saturated in an excessive display of emotion. However the difficulty of Viola’s abandonment of her gender is discussed in a passage from Nancy Taylor’s book, Women Direct Shakespeare in America, As a woman impersonating a boy, an action that both protects her from detection and excites erotic energies that are sometimes misdirected, she can deconstruct the concept that either gender is fixed or innate while also exposing the personal and societal difficulties of moving between the poles of male and female (Taylor 165). Viola is able to appropriate her sexuality though a newly established gender identity to a certain extent with concern to the fact that limitations exist in order to maintain deception. Viola therefore becomes marginal and sexless in the mode of disguise which only allows her to connect to others in a superficial way. Viola is better able to internalize with the male world because
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