Grace DiScalaMrs. VenezioEnglish II HJanuary 10, 2018The World is More Than Just Pink and Blue In 1601, the most powerful person in the world was a woman. Queen Elizabeth ruled England at the time, even as a patriarchal society dominated. As the queen ruled England, men continued to dominate directing, writing, and acting roles, William Shakespeare being among them. Shakespeare’s plays comment on gender roles; the plays shock the audience members by challenging their opinions, especially when it comes to the female performers. In Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night, Viola defies societal roles and creates havoc by breaking stereotypes, ignoring gender roles, and engaging in social taboos for comedic effect; ultimately, she conforms to these norms by the end of the play, supporting the standards of society at the time.Women are too emotional and weak; this is a stereotype that women have had to prove wrong for centuries, including Viola in Twelfth Night. Viola does just this when she is faced with a difficult situation and fears that her brother has been killed in a shipwreck. Unlike a typical women of the time, Viola devises a smart and clever plan to acquire a job. She will pose as a eunuch, named Cesario, with the help of the sea captain, and serve Duke Orsino. Coming up with this plan without much pondering time shows her intelligence, a characteristic not typically associated with women. This strays from the gender stereotype that a woman is not smart enough, nor independent enough to come up with a good idea. This incident also shows how Viola, now known as Cesario, defies the stereotype of being emotional and weak. She would have been expected to be very emotional about the death of her brother, but instead displays her true, strong, independent, nature. Even though she is under the impression that her brother is dead, she is not planning to stop her life and devote herself to mourning him. She will simply give her respects and figure out a way to survive instead of “not behold her face at ample view… and water once a day her chamber round with eye-offending brine” (1.1.29-32), like Olivia. In contrast, when Sebastian, Viola’s brother, thought of his sisters demise, he cried enough to drown her. Because of the gender roles shifts, this is also a display of a topsy turvy world and beholds elements of comedy. Viola, the women, is not debilitated by emotions; however, Sebastian, the man, falls to weakness, showing a topsy turvy world and demonstrating how Viola defies stereotypes, adding comedy to the play. While challenging these stereotypes, her plan will break gender roles. Viola’s decision of posing as a eunuch to work in Duke Orsino’s court shows how she successfully broke the gender role barriers put up by society. When shipwrecked, Viola was in a dangerous situation as a woman in a foreign land with no man to protect her. Therefore, she does what she needs to in order to protect herself, ignoring the role that she is “meant” to fulfill according to society. She plans to pay the sea captain to “conceal me Viola … and present me her as an eunuch” (Act I sc ii 53) to Duke Orsino, an upper class man in Illyria. This decision will provide her with protection and new opportunities, not otherwise available to her. In the 17th century, women of upper class are not meant to work. They are meant to stay out of the way and be submissive to men. However, Viola quickly gains Orsino’s trust and is able to complete the job of a man, better than the men currently working for the Duke. Throughout much of the play, she does not submit to her preconceived roles in society—she breaks gender roles and paves her own path. However, at the end of the play, she reverts to her original sex and conforms to the role of marrying a man. It is also noteworthy to state that Viola breaking gender roles is intended to add to the comedy of the play, rather than to enlighten or empower the audience members. Not only does she break gender roles throughout, but she also partakes in social taboos.Viola’s actions comment on the social taboos of the time and society’s opinion of breaking societal roles. By disguising as a man, Viola creates confusion among all the characters. Viola, as the male messenger, Cesario, falls in love with, Orsino, the powerful Duke of Illyria. At the time of Cesario’s love for Orsino, as two men, their relationship was considered taboo. If Cesario’s true sex was never revealed, the relationship would have been regarded as a homosexual affair. Their relationship would also be considered taboo because of their socialstatuses. Orsino possesses many character traits that would disqualify him as Cesario’s love interest: well-educated, upper class, rich, and owns property. Cesario is a messenger boy who holds Orsino’s trust and serves him loyalty. Society, at the time, ordained that a master-servant love cannot be, causing Viola to identify with taboo depictions. This is a social commentary that breaking gender roles and falling into relationships that are considered taboo creates pandemonium. Shakespeare exploits this love as a main source of comedy in the play. Viola’s “costume” was not only to add comedy to they play, but was also a commentary on sexuality and gender roles. The confusion of Viola’s costume puts the characters Orsino, Olivia, and Viola (Cesario) in a predicament. Orsino asks Cesario to “unfold the passion of myhis love” to Olivia, Olivia tells the audience, in an aside, that she has fallen for the messenger, Cesario, and Viola wants to marry Orsino. The love triangle between Viola, Orsino, and Olivia has caused chaos, originating from Viola’s disguise that disregarded women’s social roles. Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is a symphony of comedy and confusion. Shakespeare took the opportunity of having a powerful women in charge of a country, to make a play that is comedic yet also politically provocative. As Viola breaks gender roles and stereotypes by being strong and independent, disregarding “her role” in society, and falling in love with who she isn’t “supposed to” chaos ensues. Shakespeare represents this deviation as comedic effect, not as supporting evidence of women’s strength. When Viola reverts back to her “correct” and submissive ways as a women in society by putting on womens clothes and marrying the powerful male, the play is able to resolve to its ordered and peaceful ending. Twelfth Night is just one example as to how society dictates roles that certain genders are obligated to fulfill and the upheaval that results if they do not. Shakespeare’s Viola tried to challenge the views of a patriarchal society which resulted in humorous chaotic results. Only when women know their role can society be in order.