• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Twelfth Night is a feminist play. Discuss.

Extracts from this document...


Twelfth Night is a feminist play. Discuss. The play Twelfth Night was written in the Elizabethan days, near the end of the ruling of Queen Elizabeth I. It was also during The Renaissance, which is also the rebirth of learning, which this play was born. It was a period of change, questioning and vitality. People no longer believed everything they were told, but tried to find things out for themselves. As to whether Twelfth Night is a feminist play, would have several differing points to show against or for it. As it was the 'period of change', this play could have been written to change people's ideas of females and males in general. Since the olden days, women have always been viewed as emotional, irrational, petty people, and when compared to the men, not as able and capable. In the play Twelfth Night, there are many different characters, both male and female, and even a female in the disguise of male. Indeed, the play in itself is complex, and has many different hidden themes and meanings within. Shakespeare, having also lived in this time of change, could be trying to satisfy the people who are trying to find things out for themselves. He could be trying to display to the people, and let the people question themselves, and wonder, whether females are who they were said to be, and men, likewise. As to whether Twelfth Night is a feminist play, there are arguments both ways. Evidently, in the play, there are many different inferences we can draw, to survey deeper into the play, and determine whether Twelfth Night, is or is not a feminist play. Feminism, in itself, means the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the genders. In the play, there are different portrayals of various characters to display the different factors pertaining to feminism in the play. In Twelfth Night, the protagonist of the story, Viola, is displayed as a rational, sacrificial, sincere, strong, witty woman, who disguises herself as a man, to become a faithful attendant of Orsino. ...read more.


Feste also brings out the shallow nature of Olivia, as he is able to see through her motives, and talk about her shallowness and how she was not full of depth in her love, but rather, she was attracted to the outer self. He also brings out how Olivia's mourning for her brother is just an exaggeration, shown from the exchange shared between the two, when Feste first questions Olivia about, "Good Madonna, why mourn'st thou?" and Olivia is tricked by Feste's questionings, and is caught in his trap. From hence, we can infer that Shakespeare uses a male to bring out the weakness in a female, and thus, Twelfth Night is not a feminist play. However, regarding this argument, there is also another contradicting point, that is, the fools of this play, are also the males. Examples are as follows, Sir Andrew, Sir Toby, and Malvolio. In contrast to them, the females are wittier, smarter, and more manipulative than the male. For instance, the subplot of the play is how Maria thinks of a plan, to take revenge against Malvolio. This shows that Maria is the one that is intelligent, a strategist, and able and capable. In comparison, the dense Malvolio is tricked into believing and falling in the trickery of Maria's plan, and displayed to the audience as a gullible and na�ve character. Hence, likewise, Shakespeare uses a female to bring out the weakness in a male. This is similar to how Feste brings out the weakness in a female. From this, we can perhaps see that Twelfth Night is feminist play, as it brings out equilibrium between the genders, bringing out both the males and females weaknesses, and not just one side of the story. In addition, as mentioned above, the heroine, the protagonist of this play, is Viola, while on the other hand, the villain is Malvolio. Viola is well liked and is intelligent, witty, arousing the interest and liking towards her of the audience. ...read more.


get to where she was - a favourite of Orsino - and hence, this can actually show the weakness and lack of importance of the women during the time. This may be a cry out to others to emphasize on the point that the females are being neglected, and discriminated, and Viola recognizes that, if she does not disguise herself, she would not get protection so easily, get her career set up so quickly. This point can stretch out to both sides of the argument, showing that Twelfth Night is a feminist play, as it emphasizes on the problem of the discrimination between the genders. However, it can also show that Twelfth Night is not a feminist play, as it is inclined towards the men, as the men are naturally of a higher status, with Malvolio as a steward, Orsino, as the Duke of the country, Sir Andrew with "three thousand ducats a year", with Viola having to disguise herself to protect herself. All in all, there are many points to show that Twelfth Night is a feminist play, and vice versa. During the Elizabethan times, and the Renaissance, the period of change, Shakespeare may indeed be subverting the traditional ideas of gender, and questioning the reality of the difference between the males and females, and posing this feminist question to all, and causing all who read or watch this play to think about this controversial issue. As to whether Twelfth Night is a feminist play, depends on the point of view and perspective. In my opinion, Twelfth Night is a feminist play, due to how Shakespeare portrays the women not as the traditional ideas suggests, but the utter opposite, and how the women are not in any way, inferior the male, although Viola has to disguise herself as a male to get what she is, career-wise. This may well be a way to re-emphasize on the importance of equality between the two genders. In conclusion, I view Twelfth Night as a feminist play. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Twelfth Night section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Twelfth Night essays

  1. Discuss the different types of love presented in Twelfth Night

    Another kind of love portrayed in this play is true love like Viola's. Viola's patient and consistent love for Orsino is perhaps the most selfless, generous and ennobling of all. The quote, "We men say more, swear more, but indeed/Our shows are more than will; for still we prove/Much in our vows, but little in our love.".

  2. Consider Shakespeare's presentation of Orsino and Olivia in Twelfth Night and consider how they ...

    Instead of doing as Viola insists he remains at home, wallowing in self-pity and complaining of his broken heart. Olivia also does not take love seriously.

  1. Viola has a great importance of "Twelfth Night" because she alone helps reveal other ...

    After all, she is the main character who puts on a disguise for nearly the whole length of the play. There are two types of disguises she puts on. One of them is a physical disguise where she chooses to dress up as a boy and adopt the name Cesario.

  2. Foolish Antics in Twelfth Night.

    We learn this in Olivia's statement stating that Feste is "an allowed fool" meaning he is licensed, privileged critic to speak the truth of the people around him. We also learn in a statement by Curio to the Duke that Feste is employed by Olivia's father.

  1. Examine the ways in which Shakespeare uses structure and language to dramatise the comparisons ...

    This perplexity causes the comedy to be as bewildering as it is, possibly projecting the moral that nothing is as it seems. This can also be interpreted by the alternative title 'or What You Will' To have five acts in a play was conventional of Elizabethan playwrights, Shakespeare has followed

  2. How does Shakespeare explore the theme of deception and self-deception in Twelfth Night?

    in reality he has feelings too, and has a more sensitive side to his character. He also disguises himself to be a brave knight by challenging 'Cesario' to a fight as he feels this would win Olivia's heart. However, as seen through his letter, Aguecheek is a coward who could not hurt anyone.

  1. Twelfth night - would you agree with Viola that the use of disguise and ...

    On the other hand, it is her disguise which also causes her to be saved from the battle ever occurring. As Antonio thinks she is Sebastian and consequently attempts to fight for her, saying "I take the fault on me".

  2. Does Malvolio deserve his fate?

    The audience's dislike for Malvolio is deepened when he leaves threatening to tell Olivia of their behaviour 'by his hand,' because of course, nobody likes a telltale. Later, Maria directly calls Malvolio a 'puritan' this word is used to describe him as a religious killjoy who wishes to inflict his strong, opinionated views on everybody else.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work