Gender Roles in Twelfth Night and As you Like It Much of the comedy in Twelfth Night and As you Like It emerges from Shakespeare’s distortion of traditional gender roles, as both plays contain strong female leads who disguise themselves as males. Though both Viola and Rosalind help their less-than-ideal beloveds woo their own objects of desire, and both disguises emerge party from the loss of a male familial figure, the women inhabit their male facades in drastically different ways. In both plays, though, Shakespeare provides constant reminders of Viola and Rosalind’s femininity, never straying too far from established gender tropes. One of the clearest similarities between Rosalind and Viola lies in that they disguise themselves as a
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When considering how strong this previous attachment to Olivia seemed, too, the Duke choosing to marry Viola paints him in a most fickle light. Finally, though, neither Orlando nor Duke Orsino saw through Rosalind’s or Viola’s disguises, showing both men to be somewhat naïve and easily duped. Though neither Orlando nor Duke Orsino prove an unacceptable match, then, neither can they be said to be the ideal, perfect mates. Though similar in many ways, Viola and Rosalind differ in how they perceive their assumed male roles while disguised. Working as his Page, Viola assumes a more stereotypically female, servile position to Duke Orsino. By stark contrast, Rosalind becomes the authority figure in her interactions with Orlando:
By my Troth, and in good earnest, and so God mend me, and by all pretty oaths that are not dangerous, if you break one jot of your promise, or come one minute behind your hour, I will think you the most pathetical break-promise, and the most hollow lover, and the most unworthy of her you call Rosalind, that may be chosen out of the gross band of the unfaithful; therefore beware my censure and keep your promise.
Furthermore, Rosalind, in order to preserve her male façade, encourages and adds to Orlando’s criticisms of the female nature: “. . . And I thank God I am not a woman, to be touch’d with so many giddy offenses as hath generally tax’d their whole sex withal” (As You Like