Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Two Queer Comedies: As You Like It and Twelfth Night
Because they both involve cross-dressing and same-sex romantic attraction, Twelfth Night and As You Like It feature prominently in literary criticism and performance studies. Below are several articles that discuss the queering of both gender and sexuality in these comedies.
A Fair Youth in the Forest of Arden: Reading Gender and Desire in As You Like It
By Amanda Rudd.
This article from Journal of the Wooden O, which is produced in cooperation with the Utah Shakespeare Festival, examines dialogues between the homoeroticisms of As You Like It and Shakespeare’s sonnets. Through a series of close-readings, Rudd compares portrayals of desire in As You Like It and the sonnets, finding many cross-genre similarities that challenge heteronormative gender conventions. While this is an undergraduate paper, it has been peer reviewed and is both well-written and thorough. Students who are unsure about its acceptable usage for a specific class should consult their professor.
The Place of a Cousin in As You Like It
By Julie Crawford.
Crawford’s article is an in-depth examination of female homosociality and eroticism in As You Like It, particularly the relationship between Rosalind and Celia. Crawford provides historical context for the relationships between cousins in early modern England, reads Celia and Rosalind’s relationship in dialogue with the Biblical story of Ruth and Naomi, and argues that due to their cousinhood, the love between Celia and Rosalind is not fully subsumed by heterosexual relationships, but is normalized and allowed to exist through the play’s conclusion.
Queering the Shakespearean Family
By Mario DiGangi.
Focusing largely on As You Like It, DiGangi reads the relationships between the main characters of As You Like It (Rosalind, Orlando, and Celia) through the lens of the Ganymede myth of Greek mythology. Rosalind’s cross-dressing as a man allows her to gauge whether Orlando would forsake both other women and other men to be faithful as her lover. The article also comments on early modern connotations of the word “ganymede” and how early modern audiences might have understood Rosalind’s cross-dressing and speeches about men and women. Extensive footnotes provide a helpful starting point for further research.
Glimpsing a ‘Lesbian’ Poetics in Twelfth Night
By Jami Ake.
Ake argues that while the cross-dressing in Twelfth Night has attracted much attention in queer readings of the play, the relationship between Olivia and Viola as two women is less often considered. The conversations between Olivia and Viola reject the language of male lovers (embodied by Orsino) and lead to Viola, a woman, accidentally but successfully wooing another woman, which Ake terms a “tentative lesbian poetics.”
On Queering Twelfth Night
By Chad Allen Thomas.
Thomas’s article is part reflection on his own experiences as an actor in queered performances of Shakespeare, part analysis of two specific productions of Twelfth Night in 2003, one at the Globe Theatre and one a touring production by the Cheek by Jowl company. The article also considers Twelfth Night’s place in the queer theatre canon. This article’s focus on specific productions make it particularly valuable to performance studies.
Antonio’s (Happy) Ending: Queer Closure in All-Male Twelfth Night
By Chad Allen Thomas.
Thomas returns to Twelfth Night to consider Antonio and Sebastian’s relationship, perhaps the most overtly homoerotic in the Shakespeare canon, and how this relationship can be represented in performance with varying degrees of happiness in its resolution. While the resurgence of all-male casts of Twelfth Night can contribute to the queering of the play in performance, an all-male cast does not necessarily make the performance queer. Thomas defends this argument through analysis of three different all-male productions of Twelfth Night.