Sunday, October 4, 2009

The 'Hunt' for Equality

Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night or, What You Will has never crossed my mind as a “banned book” so as I read through the play I searched for the reasoning behind this banishment. Originally I thought deception and drinking alcohol could have been essential to the banishment, but as I took a deeper look into the play I began to realize the presence of the objectification of women.

Whenever Orsino talks about love, he refers to it as a “hunt” or “game”. He references many kinds of animals when searching for his mate. This animal related analogy not only degrades women, but it stereotypes males for having a beast/barbaric understanding of love. In response to Curio’s question “ Will you go hunt, my lord?” (I.I. 17) Orsino states “That instant I turn’d into a hart/And my desires, like fell and cruel hounds” (I.I. 22-23). Most the conversations between males in this play demonstrate and animalistic theme when referring to love. I think it was important for Shakespeare to use such an analogy, because it demonstrates the transition Orsino makes when he comes to know Cesario as Viola. By using such vocabulary Shakespeare emphasizes the chauvinistic attitude Orsino has prior to meeting Cesario/ Viola only stressing the important transition of fully treating someone as an equal.

I feel that each scene is necessary for the conclusion, for example by Orsino’s risky animal related analogy; Shakespeare demonstrates the important role of friendship on a relationship. Orsino and Viola’s relationship breaks the mold of the stereotypical romance. Shakespeare allows Viola to understand Orsino on a more personal level because she is able to see Orsino for who he is. However the real question is do they really live happily ever after? Viola now has the upper hand because she never truly let her guard down.

Shakespeare was ahead of his time by allowing this friendship to exist because we as the audience (and Shakespeare) all know that Cesario is a female, however Orsino has no idea. This friendship went against the grain of gender roles and expectations for single women. If anything this play helps fight for the equality that Orsino ends up giving Viola.

However, even though these characteristics are placed within the play, Shakespeare gives the freedom to the director, and I feel that Twelfth Night or, What You Will has no place on a banned book list. This play helps demonstrate the various levels of love, and helps lead the audience into the misconceptions and disguises present in society. If anything this play makes a point to demonstrate the fine line between love, lust and lies as we apply the message to our own lives.

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