Homoerotic Love and the End of Twelfth Night

Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night derives much of its hilarity from disguises causing same-sex love: the page Cesario loving “his” master Duke Orsino, the Duke’s love Olivia falling in love with a disguised Viola, etc. Though as we’ve discussed in class that there were no terms for “homosexual” or “heterosexual” in this era, it is clear that the play is making a statement about sexuality and love, the rigidity made apparent in Orsino’s final speech when he claims that Viola will remain a man and not become his lover until her clothes are found and changed (5.1.385-7). With all of this same sex love either openly (Antonio for Sebastian) or inadvertently taking place, Shakespeare is using this homoerotic attraction in particular “as a means to of dramatizing the socially constructed basis of sexuality that is determined by gender identity” (Casey, 122). However, despite what seems to be some legitimate feelings in these same-sex relationships, the end of the play ends characteristic of a Shakespearean comedy with that of a marriage (two in this case)—or, as Casey puts it, finishing with a clear “bias towards heterosexual marriage” at the play’s conclusion (121). Despite much of the romance for the first four acts dealing with those, at least from a socially constructed standpoint, being from the same sex, all seems to be “right” in Shakespeare’s world by the end of the play—the disguises are off, the difference between Sebastian and Viola is discovered, and everyone ends up in a happily, socially approvable marriage. Because of this ending, I question what Shakespeare is really trying to accomplish in the play. After all, according to Casey’s article, 16th century Europe, despite not having the specific terms to define them yet, was arguably more “patriarchal, homophobic, and misogynistic” than even today, and Shakespeare was deeply engrained in that society (124). Is same sex love something to be laughed at and poke fun of, and those guilty of it worthy of only our condemnation? Is the only appropriate ending for a life affirming, socially appropriate marriage, feelings be damned?
An important character to look at to affirm my point is Antonio, who is the only character in the play who knowingly engages in same-sex love. Unlike the ambiguousness of a lesbian relationship between Viola and Olivia in both Act 1 Scene 5 and Act 3 Scene 1, Antonio’s homoerotic feelings for Sebastian are clear. Antonio spends three months with the man he saved from sea, an explicable amount of time when compared to Viola’s relationship with the captain who saved her. He openly talks of his love for Sebastian and begs to be his “servant” (2.1.31-2), and, despite a most certainly ill fate awaiting him in Orsino’s court, he follows Sebastian because he “adores” him, which makes the “danger seem sport” (2.1.42-3). Later, he talks about his “desire” for Sebastian and his “willing love” that puts him in the hands of his enemies (3.3.5-12). Finally, when he believes Sebastian has betrayed him when mistaking Viola for his love, Antonio plays the part of spurned lover, claiming that his god is a “vile idol” (3.4.349) and accepts his arrest a defeated man. Clearly, Antonio’s love and passion is on par with that of Viola for Orsino or Toby for Maria, to name a few. However, his homoerotic love contrasts from the comic same-sex relationships from earlier. Shakespeare makes mock of the socially constructed gender roles, especially in Ser Andrew and Cesario’s “duel.” However, Antonio disrupts these normative concepts of sexuality and gender by being the most masculine character in the play—starkly contrasting from the knights Ser Andrew and Ser Toby, and even the Duke, Antonio is “aggressive, bold, eloquent, faithful, and uncompromising” (137). Clearly, his character, and subsequently his homoerotic love, is different than those the play makes mock of, which makes his ending all the sadder. During the resolution and comic final scene capped by marriage, Antonio, outspoken for most of the play on almost every matter, is strangely silent while his beloved joins hands with a socially appropriate woman. In Shakespeare, as Casey puts it, “silence is often the most telling form of disappointment” (138). Like Viola describes Olivia’s love for her early in the play, Antonio’s love proves to be “thriftless” as he ends up alone, with only the antagonist Malvolio and the dim-witted Ser Andrew facing similar fates. Given Antonio’s admirable character through much of the play, it would seem odd that a character as brave and noble as he would be likened to the spurned and arrogant Malvolio, but, because his love is the “wrong type” for the 16th century Renaissance, the term “homosexual” yet to be coined not withstanding, Antonio’s final isolation suggests what I explored above—that, despite being a play that turns gender roles on their head, in the end there was no place for homoerotic love in Shakespeare’s world except for the purpose of comedy and condemnation. What do you guys think?

Works Cited
Charles, Casey. “Gender Trouble in Twelfth Night.” Theatre Journal 49.2 (1997): 121-41. JSTOR. Web. 14 Sept. 2013.
Shakespeare, William. “Twelfth Night.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol. 1. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2012. 1189-250. Print.

5 thoughts on “Homoerotic Love and the End of Twelfth Night

  1. The relationship between Sebastian and Antonio reads homoerotic because, as Adam pointed out, Antonio’s actions and words reflect a passionate infatuation for Sebastian, and romantic feelings between men are classified as homoerotic. I would like to do an extension post and look at the characters themselves based on an extrapolation of textual evidence; how might Sebastian and Antonio have interpreted this relationship? Sebastian plays the role of the beautiful young gentleman, because he partakes in the compulsory Comedic marriage plot, and his resemblance to Viola and Olivia’s attraction to the Cesario/Sebastian figure characterize him as a beautiful object of desire. Shakespeare writes Sebastian as a lead in a male/female marriage plot, but how does Antonio see him? I argue that the homoeroticism is present, but that Antonio’s interpretation of Sebastian’s role is confused; I would like to explore the possibility that Antonio views Sebastian as filling a female role.
    While we have seen that androgyny is a reoccurring theme in Renaissance art, there remains a clearly defined distinction between the gender roles: men, even the most beautifully effeminate men, wear male clothing, fight in duels, and provide protection. Antonio’s character fits the bill: “Antonio disrupts normative constructions of gender by enacting his homoerotic passion in a character that is the most traditionally ‘masculine’ in the play” (Charles 137). Sebastian, on the other hand, “combines characteristics of both genders… Sebastian says of himself (on parting with Antonio), ‘I am yet so near the manners of my mother, that upon the least occasion more mine eyes will tell tales of me’ (II.i.)” (Logan 232).
    To illustrate, I would like to turn to the purse that Antonio gives to Sebastian in Act III. Because Antonio’s class is lower than Sebastian’s, this gift would probably appear odd to an audience whose lives revolved around strict social stratification. Here we see an example of how, “In relation to both Antonio and Olivia, Sebastian takes a passive, classically feminine role; he enjoys their attentions, and allows them to present him with lavish gifts” (Logan 232). Although Sebastian does not encourage Antonio’s gift, he does not deny it; he does not propose to Olivia, but he accepts her offer.
    I read the purse as a stand-in for a trinket, much like the rings and jewels exchanged earlier in the play amongst courtly couples. Antonio offers that “Haply your eye shall light upon some toy you have desire to purchase; and your store, 
I think, is not for idle markets, sir” to which Sebastian replies “I’ll be your purse-bearer and leave you for an hour” (III.iii.). Sebastian ignores Antonio’s offer of a “toy” and instead assigns himself the temporary occupation of purse-bearer, which, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was a term that could encompass treasurers and bursars. The word “bursar” comes from the Latin for purse-bearer, and therefore I am guessing that the term purse-bearer may be an instance of Sebastian briefly re-asserting his masculinity as someone who could dictate the use of money. However, he passively accepts the purse, which perhaps further confuses Antonio.
    “Antonio’s loaning of his purse to Sebastian is an act of generosity, not payment” (Charles 137), and this generosity comes from an almost aggressive attitude on Antonio’s end to not only turn Sebastian into a beautiful young male object of desire, but into a figure that fills the typical female role. Therefore, I argue that love is not solely homoerotic, but also perhaps a terrible case of passionate object-confusion, in which Antonio distorts Sebastian’s identity into that of a woman to make his own homoerotic feelings more acceptable. “Antonio’s… transformation of [his lover] into something more than [he is] is indicative of a larger pattern….that employs the process of love as an agency in the disruption of gender binarism and social hierarchy” (Charles 138), and we see this pattern throughout the play. Many of us in class shared that we felt disappointed and confused by the play’s conclusion of two marriages between strangers, but perhaps this play can work as an argument that love exists to tangle strict ideologies and marriage exists to clean up the mess and sort those ideologies back into place.

    Works Cited
    Charles, Casey. “Gender Trouble in ‘Twelfth Night.’” Theatre Journal 49.2 (May 1997): 121-141.
    Logan, Thad Jenkins. “‘Twelfth Night’: The Limits of Festivity.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama 22.2 (Spring 1982): 223-238.
    “purse-bearer, n.” The Oxford English Dictionary. 3rd ed. 2007. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 18 September 2013 .

  2. This is a query post.

    From what I understand, Adam is arguing that Twelfth Night supports the heterosexual marriage ideal: he argues that, though same-sex love is depicted, it is ultimately shown only as “something to be laughed at” and condemned (Adam). Adam is especially interested in the character of Antonio, who apparently has an erotic love for Sebastian, and who is one of the few characters to end the play silent and alone.

    I would like to qualify this argument, or call for a shift in perspective. I agree that Antonio’s love for Sebastian can indeed be read as homoerotic, and that this is an important point to consider. However, I do not think that Antonio that which most destabilizes Elizabethan compulsory heterosexuality. (And if this is true, then despite Antonio’s lonely ending, it is still possible that the play does not uphold “life affirming, socially appropriate marriage” (Adam).)

    I think that the heterosexual marriage ideal is most destabilized by Viola/Cesario/Sebastian: despite their differences in gender and sex, Viola, her alter ego Cesario, and her twin brother Sebastian effectively function as one site of desire in Twelfth Night. That is, Olivia is first attracted to Cesario and then to Sebastian (under the impression that they are the same person). Antonio, who professes his love and adoration for Sebastian, feels utterly betrayed Cesario rejects him (again thinking that they are the same person). Even Orsino, whose feelings toward Cesario are more difficult to pin down, easily transfers the intimacy he had with Cesario to the newly-revealed Viola, immediately asking to see her in her female clothing (5.1.265-66) and asking for her hand in marriage before she has even changed (5.1.310-314). (He, too, seems to think that Cesario and Viola are effectively the same person, with only a change of dress necessary to switch from one identity to the other.)

    All of this gets at what Casey Charles calls a masked but “decided anxiety about what is feared to be the actual fluidity of gender” in sixteenth- and seventeeth-century Europe (Charles 124)—and therefore, in a society functioning under compulsory heterosexuality (or compulsory heterosexual marriage), the actual fluidity of desire. That is, if Viola can transform into Cesario, and Cesario into Viola, and if Cesario is indistinguishable from Sebastian, then what is gender, and how defined can it possibly be? And if gender can be fluid or indeterminate, then what does that mean for desire—after all, one cannot heterosexually desire an ambiguously or fluidly gendered object. Charles explains that Viola/Cesario “collapses the polarities upon which heterosexuality is based by becoming an object of desire whose ambiguity renders the distinction between homo- and hetero-erotic attraction difficult to decipher” (6).

    Twelfth Night as a whole, then, resists fitting desire into neatly heterosexual boxes (or homosexual ones, for that matter). For example, in Act 5 scene 1, who is wooing Olivia? Is it Viola (who is ultimately producing these poetics, making these judgments about Olivia’s beauty, etc.?)? Is it Viola, playing the role of Cesario (strikingly well)? Or is it Viola, playing the role of Cesario, playing the role of Orsino? And in turn, who does Olivia desire? Is it Viola, the person beneath the disguises, whose socioeconomic class and whose “tongue,…face,…limbs, actions, and spirit” are so appealing? Or is it Cesario, the noble youth that Olivia perceives…but who is entirely a fiction created by Viola? Or is it Orsino, who sent Viola/Cesario on this mission in the first place, who Viola/Cesario is meant to represent? Or is it Olivia herself that Olivia desires, Olivia the narcissist, infatuated with her own face and this youth’s response to it; Olivia whose name is a near anagram of Viola’s? Perhaps, as Jonathan Crewe posits, the desire here is “no longer confined to the single approved channel along which it can supposedly be transmitted from a designated sender to a designated receiver” (Crewe 111). Perhaps Viola/Cesario/(Sebastian)’s ambiguity (of age, station, gender, identity/role, etc.) is itself the reason that s/he is so desired in such diverse ways by so many characters in the play.

    To return somewhat to Adam’s argument: Adam notes that “everyone ends up in a happily, socially approvable marriage,” and he adds “Because of this ending, I question what Shakespeare is really trying to accomplish in this play”—i.e. because of the marriages at the end of the play, he thinks that Twelfth Night may ultimately support the compulsory heterosexual marriage ideal.

    I think that the shift in perspective that I have articulated leads us to a different conclusion: I find that Twelfth Night, even as it ends in various opposite-sex marriages, continues to resist fitting desire into neatly heterosexual boxes. First, Viola/Cesario and Sebastian are confirmed to be indistinguishable: “One face, one voice, one habit, and two persons” exclaims Orsino (5.1.208). Second, Sebastian tells Olivia that she is “betrothed both to a maid and man,” continuing the gender and identity ambiguity (5.1.256). (Is Olivia married to both Viola and Sebastian? To Sebastian, the virgin? To Sebastian, the feminine man? All or some of these things?) Third, Orsino asks to see Viola in her “woman’s weeds” (266); yet, knowing that she is a woman, continues to call her “Boy” (260) and “Cesario” (372); yet, apparently continuing to see her at least somewhat as male, asks for her hand in marriage (310-314).

    Ultimately, then, Twelfth Night does not support the heterosexual marriage ideal; rather, it presents gender and desire as ambiguous and fluid throughout the play and continues to do so even in the midst of a stereotypical marriage plot.

    Works Cited
    Charles, Casey. “Gender Trouble in ‘Twelfth Night.’” Theatre Journal 49.2 (May 1997): 121-141.
    Crewe, Jonathan. “In the Field of Dreams: Transvestism in Twelfth Night and The Crying Game.” Representations. No. 50 (Spring 1995): 101-121.
    Shakespeare, William. “Twelfth Night.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol. 1. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2012. 1189-250. Print.

  3. When Bridget states that “love exists to tangle strict ideologies”, I believe she is completely right. I would like to extend this discussion by looking at Antonio as a sea captain, which to me represents a strong symbol of marginalization and an inability to fit in with the hierarchies exhibited in Twelfth Night.
    Later British romantics will look back upon the mariner as a symbol for the outcast, a wanderer who has no place in society and is therefore exiled to the sea. Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner illustrates this perfectly when the mariner says, “this soul hath been/ Alone on a wide wide sea:/ So lonely ‘twas, that God himself/ Scarce seemed there to be” (Part VII). While this is typical of the mariner image, Coleridge also works with an element of persecution. The mariner kills an albatross at sea, and despite mixed reactions from his crew, he is haunted by spirits which serve to punish both the crew and the mariner (through death and isolation, respectively).
    Working backwards towards Shakespeare’s text, this same model can be applied to Antonio, his love, and his society’s reactions towards it. I agree with Adam in that Antonio seems to love Sebastian in more than a friendly manner, but much of the ambiguity we encounter in trying to make such a claim comes from, in my opinion, an intentionally tempered love. Insofar as Antonio is a sea captain, his “choice” to become one is inextricably linked with his homosexual nature. The sea represents a chance to escape from the strict marriage norms plaguing society at the time. While a forced “freedom”, the self-appointed exile Antonio’s character undertakes is a partially welcome one. So when we see Antonio interact with Sebastian, he is returning to the land with the knowledge that his love will most likely not be received or supported. In fact, his return to help Sebastian may have been partly inspired by encroaching changes within his trade, for the British “navy treated sodomy in the officer corps as a more serious crime than murder” (Davies 1054). These ideas certainly would have created a division within Antonio regarding his homosexual love.
    Despite this apprehension, remember that Antonio found Sebastian shipwrecked. He tells Orsino that “from the rude sea’s enraged and foamy mouth/ did [he] redeem” (Shakespeare 5.1: 73-74). He seems to be implying that a bond was formed between them here, at sea (or close enough to it), that represents both a rescue and new exile from a place now hostile towards homosexuality. This is more apparent in how Antonio views “Sebastian’s” betrayal, when he says Sebastian will not “partake with [him] in danger” (5.1: 83). His expectations for their perceived relationship in a world hostile to homosexuality are apparent in his phrasing; it is not “his” (Antonio’s) danger anymore, but “their” danger.
    The play’s finale, in which Antonio is again marginalized and left without a partner, shows the futility of attempting to flip or tangle the rigid ideologies from a position of powerlessness. Perhaps if Antonio was not a sea captain, things would have ended quite differently.
    Coleridge, Samuel T. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (text of 1834).” Poetry Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Sept. 2013. .
    Davies, Christie. “Sexual Taboos and Social Boundaries.” American Journal of Sociology 87: 1032-63. Web. 19 Sept. 2013. .
    Shakespeare, William. “Twelfth Night.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol. 1. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2012. 1189-250. Print.

  4. Though I agree Antonio’s relationship with Sebastian does seem to be characterized by what a contemporary audience would label homoeroticism, I question whether Antonio’s fate must necessarily be linked to his homoerotic desire. Because the concept of sexual orientation did not exist in the 17th century, neither Shakespeare nor his audience would have recognized the source of Antonio’s same-sex desire as an identifiable and inherent characteristic. Desire in Twelfth Night appears to be completely external; as Jonathan Crewe says, “desire appears to be either lacking or highly resistant to direction” (Crewe 103). It is an animated, uncontrollable entity, described as such when Orsino, referring to his unrequited love for Olivia, says, “And my desires, like fell and cruel hounds / E’er since pursue me” (1.1.20-21). Antonio, like Orsino, is subject to the whims of his own desires. If Shakespeare is condemning Antonio for his homoeroticism through his unpaired ending, he is condemning him for something independent of his character and beyond his control. I would like to offer an alternate reading: Shakespeare is actually condemning the manner in which Antonio expresses his desire to Sebastian; that is, he is making a statement about the archetypal Petrarchan suitor.

    Antonio’s interactions with Sebastian model the conventions of courtly or Petrarchan love in all ways but gender (and even in that regard, there is some room for ambiguity). He asks Sebastian to make him his servant (2.2.31-32), which would establish the disparity of power that characterizes courtly love. Later, he explicitly and dramatically professes his love to Sebastian, saying, “My desire, / More sharp than filèd steel, did spur me forth” (3.3.5-6), and as typical of the courtly romance, Sebastian disregards him. This exaggerated way in which Antonio courts Sebastian is more characteristic of courtly love than homoeroticism and mirrors the way in which other characters in Twelfth Night express themselves.

    In addition to Antonio, both Orsino and Malvolio adopt the role of Petrarchan suitor in Twelfth Night. Orsino, in doing so, fails to successfully woo Olivia, and the manner in which she rejects him challenges the “tired Petrarchan formulae” as constructed and artificial (Correll 78). In response to Cesario’s/Viola’s plea for her not to “leave the world no copy” (1.5.229), Olivia says she will record each individual aspect of her beauty, “as, item, two lips, indifferent red; item, two gray eyes with lids to them; item, one neck, one chin, and so forth” (1.5.253-255), which pokes fun at how overused these objects are in courtly discourse. Malvolio, similarly to Antonio, ends up alone, as Adam said. Like Antonio, Malvolio also exhibits the traits of the Petrarchan suitor. He subjects himself and any opportunities he may have to gain power to what he perceives as the will of Olivia, hoping that by establishing himself as socially inferior to her, he may paradoxically increase in social rank. Malvolio’s aspirations for power (within his courting of Olivia) mirror the paradox of courtly love—love grows through distance and rejection.
    I think that given the number of references to Petrarchan love within Twelfth Night (not to mention Shakespeare’s other works, notably Sonnet 130), it is more likely that the relationship between Antonio and Sebastian—and its eventual dissolution—is meant as a critique on the artificiality of Petrarchan love. Taken out of its typical context (between a man and a woman) and set instead between two men, courtly love appears ridiculous, which is what I believe Shakespeare was trying to illustrate.

    Works Cited
    Correll, Barbara. “Malvolio at Malfi: Managing Desire in Shakespeare and Webster.” Shakespeare Quarterly. Vol. 58, No. 1 (Spring 2007): 65-92.
    Crewe, Jonathan. “In the Field of Dreams: Transvestism in Twelfth Night and The Crying Game.” Representations. No. 50 (Spring 1995): 101-121.
    Shakespeare, William. “Twelfth Night.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol. 1. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2012. 1189-250. Print.

  5. I’d like to take up a query with Adam’s post, in which he argues that, although there is the powerful presence of man-to-man love between Antonio and Sebastian, Shakespeare ultimately supports/condones the culturally normative marriage plot because the play ends with three apparently happy marriage promises.

    I would agree that, yes, Shakespeare does seem to adhere to the cultural norm of the marriage plot by the end of TN; however, Adam disregards the bizarre and abrupt nature in which these marriages occur. These details cannot be disregarded or considered culturally normative. Also, a small and (almost) inconsequential detail, Adam states that “it is clear the play is making a statement about sexuality and love”; however, it’s important here for me to specify “courtly love” because I argue it is specifically this type of love that Shakespeare is consciously commenting on/playing with throughout TN.

    My question is to what end does Shakespeare use courtly love? Yes, the play ends neatly with masks off and everyone of importance happy in a marriage, but why so abruptly? What is Shakespeare saying here? Though this may be considered before Foucault’s scope, could we consider this Shakespeare’s contribution to a discourse on sex? Or perhaps substitute sex for courtly love? Adam was left with a similar question when analyzing the prevalence of the marriage plot over the Antonio/Sebastian relationship. I aim at some insight to these questions by looking a bit closer at disguise in TN, and by also reviewing the final scene of the play; however, the focus will primarily be on Orsino and his fluid desire.

    Most of the mayhem in TN is caused by disguise. Primarily, Viola as Cesario, but there is also Maria pretending to be Olivia through love letters to Malvolio, and Antonio mistaking Viola/Cesario for Sebastian. The disguises are usually taken up for some plot or game. Viola makes a request of her Captain: “conceal me what I am, and be my aid/For such disguise as haply shall become/The form of my intent” (1:2:51-53). Also, when Maria wishes to fool Malvolio with “some obscure epistles of love”, she confidently claims she “can write very like [her] lady” (2:3:143-4;148-9). With the exception of Olivia and her veil in act one, it’s arguable that every disguise is used to pull some kind of plot. The disguises are associated with sport, mere fun and games, like the Carnival culture they’re derived from. By this, Shakespeare has created a safe space to play with the desire of courtly love and to reveal its artifice. This revealing begins even within the first lines of the play as Orsino fawns and muses over Olivia: “O spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou… Of what validity and pitch soe’er,/But falls into abatement and low price even in a minute.” (1:1:9;12-14). Orsino speaks of love, but Shakespeare may also mean desire and its fluidity. After the disguises are on, this fluid desire is demonstrated much more readily in that safe space of gameplay. After one scene with Viola/Cesario, Olivia gives up her oath of seven years of solitude that she was totally committed to a moment ago, and decides she’s in love with Cesario. After meeting the Duke for the first time, Viola decides she wants him for herself, but she’s disguised as Cesario. After reading Maria’s letter that he thinks is from Olivia, Malvolio is taken with Olivia and will do anything to please her. And, in an uncorrected mix-up, Sebastian somehow falls for Olivia and promises to marry her after ten lines, although she thinks he’s Cesario. It’s almost as if desire is this inescapable flowing energy to which every character is subject, making them all ridiculous characters.

    Desire seems to be most obviously fluid in Orsino, specifically in the closing scene of the play, when his desire shifts from Olivia to Viola/Cesario as soon as he realizes Viola/Cesario is a woman. “If this be so, as yet the glass seems true,/I shall have a share in this most happy wrack” (5:1:263-4). It’s as if he wants in on the game as well. Olivia and Sebastian are seemingly nice and settled and he wants that too. What is this moment saying about desire, courtly love, and marriage? To refer back to Adam’s insight, I think it’s doing much more than reinforcing the socially acceptable marriage plot. Shakespeare’s trivial treatment of marriage and desire makes a mockery of the elevated, committed, and noble pursuit that courtly love is so often shown to be.

    The marriages feel absurd and artificial because of Shakespeare’s purposeful use of fluctuating, fluid desire. It may also be attributed to the gender ambiguity of Viola/Cesario/Sebastian, but I would argue that the desire is more influential because Shakespeare still chooses to have Orsino and Olivia fall for their socially acceptable counterpart, regardless of the fact that they’ve been disguised the whole time and no one is who h/she claimed to be previously. Disguise opens the door, but desire causes the chaos. After considering closely, the reader must realize that Orsino and Olivia hardly know these individuals that they claim to love so passionately. This situation is unbelievable; it’s laughable, but it serves more purpose than just a laugh. I venture to answer Adam’s question of what Shakespeare is trying to accomplish and say that in TN, Shakespeare shows that desire is hardly a static, ever-lasting entity, and by using it in this fluid, quick-to-change way, he ultimately points out the artifice of courtly love and marriage. Although it was TN’s publication time that Foucault argues “sexual practices had little need of secrecy, words were said without undue reticence, and things were done without too much concealment”, I think one could definitely argue that Shakespeare has his own covert and playful way of commenting on what desire and courtly love really are (Foucault 3). That even in his era there were discourses, in which courtly love and sex were concerned.

    Works Cited
    Foucault, Michel. “We “Other” Victorians.” The History of Sexuality. Vol. 1. New York: Vintage, 1990. 3. Print.
    Shakespeare, William. “Twelfth Night.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol. 1. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2012. 1189-250. Print.

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