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Cesario and Homosexuality in The Twelfth Night

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  1. Introduction
  2. The concept of homosexuality during Shakespeare's time
  3. Cesario and his two important relationships with the characters of The Twelfth Night
    1. His relationship with Olivia
    2. Cesario's relationship with Orsino
  4. Conclusion
  5. Works cited

Found within William Shakespeare's play The Twelfth Night are many aspects of irony that contribute to its comical nature. In particular, the character Cesario, whose actor is veiled under two layers of falsity, is interesting not only because of the humor that surrounds him, but because of his role as an outlet for the characters' sexual energies. Through Cesario's relationships with other characters in The Twelfth Night, Shakespeare is able to explore the concept of homosexuality without the risk of being socially unacceptable.

[...] However, Shakespeare permits his audience to hardly question this move; because the situation quickly switches from what would be taboo, to a social norm--with the simple unveiling of Cesario's (Viola's) female identity. With Cesario, Shakespeare was able not only to create an arrangement for the exploration of homosexuality, but he is able to eradicate it (in a sense) just as quickly. The problem of homosexuality in his play is solved by the play's resolution: it is now acceptable for Orsino to be attracted to Cesario, because Cesario is actually a woman. Even the timely arrival of Viola's brother Sebastian is Olivia's solution to her attraction to Cesario. [...]


[...] The presence of dialogue such as this determines the fact that the speech between characters in The Twelfth Night is not an exception to Shakespeare's style of writing, yet the character Cesario adds another dynamic to this playwright's exploration of homosexuality. Cesario has two important relationships with the characters of The Twelfth Night, both of which lend to the nature of the play. His first relationship is that with Olivia. The significance of this connection as it hints at homosexuality is the fact that it would be a homosexual one if Viola had not been clothed as a male. [...]

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