Date of Award

2011

Document Type

Thesis

Department

English

First Advisor

David Parker

Abstract

In taking on their male disguises, Viola (Twelfth Night ), Rosalind (As You Like It ), and Portia (The Merchant of Venice ) are able to transcend the confines of their social roles and achieve agency and voice as both females and males. With their male disguises, they gain power and agency as lower-class males and as aristocratic females. This power correlates to the fact that they are not fully male. Their female attributes, ideas, and nature (the essence of their femininity) still come through. They are limited and marginalized as women not because of their intelligence and wit, but because of the gender, sexual, and class expectations of the day. Due to their precarious societal position, the only way for a woman to fight the social boundaries is to use the vehicle of disguising as a male of a lower class.

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