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That that is, is: A Study of Homoeroticism in Twelfth Night

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  • Essay length: 2471 words
  • Submitted: 18/08/2006
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AS and A Level Twelfth Night

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That that is, is:

A Study of Homoeroticism in Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night is a major site for homoerotic discourse in queer studies. However, the play is largely concerned with the idea of love, like many of Shakespeare's comedies. In order to investigate his subject further, Shakespeare periodically uses homoeroticism in order to represent various forms of relationships. The pairings of Olivia and Cesario/Viola, Antonio and Sebastian, and Orsino and Cesario/Viola, demonstrate that same-sex erotic attraction is a major theme in the play. Viola's secretive cross-dressing causes Olivia to believe that both of them are participating in normal, heterosexual interactions, while in reality they interact in a homoerotic fashion. These complex, homoerotic representations serve to dramatize the socially constructed basis for determination of sexuality according to one's gender identity. I intend to establish that in this play Shakespeare dramatically criticises the idealized norms of heterosexuality (required by his society) through focussing his narrative on representations of homoerotic pairings and deconstructing dominant gender categories.

Viola's transvestism spurs various relationships that fall within the bounds of homoeroticism. Through the secret of her disguise, her actions illustrate the flaws of socially constructed gender identities, defined by the socially

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