College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
Women's and Gender Studies
The play Twelfth Night depicts the fluid nature of sexuality, although it ends with the standard trope undergirding romantic comedy: inevitable het-erosexual unions. Additionally, Twelfth Night upsets stereotypical constructions of masculinity and sexual desire by provocatively introducing Antonio (a heroic sea captain) who saves Sebastian (a beautiful young man) from watery destruction; more-over, they form a homoerotic domestic partnership that lasts three blissful months—a substantial time-line in Shakespearean comedy. The ongoing critical conversations on this topic are limited to a discussion of bisexuality (Pequigney), a consideration of the im-plications of homoerotic partnership (Thomas), and an observation of the inherent cruelty in the comic situation (Adelman). My critical intervention high-lights the fact that Shakespeare scholars tend to focus on the homosocial pairs of Viola/Olivia and Ce-sario/Orsino rather than scrutinizing the function of Antonio and Sebastian’s passionate partnership within the context of romantic comedy. Therefore, this essay shall offer three strains of analysis to help alleviate this aforementioned critical deficit. First, it posits that Antonio’s downward spiral (due to his re-fusal to pursue traditionally-sanctioned matrimony) is in line with tragedy rather than comedy. Next, this es-say theorizes that Sebastian’s Roderigo alter-ego, which he adopts to engage intimately with Antonio, profoundly fractures his sexual psyche. Finally, it of-fers an elastic rendering of the play’s end in which Sebastian reconciles with his Roderigo persona and invites Antonio to join his marriage, all with Olivia’s approval, merging homoerotic passion and heteronor-mative inevitability into a flexible middle sphere.
"Antonio's Lament: "Mightily Abused" in Twelfth Night,"
Perpetua: The UAH Journal of Undergraduate Research: Vol. 1:
1, Article 3.
Available at: https://louis.uah.edu/perpetua/vol1/iss1/3