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LITR279 Shakespeare

Published : 07-Sep,2021  |  Views : 10


As discussed in class, each student is required to explore and synthesize into a final compare/contrast paper, the development of a major theme in terms of at least two to three specific contexts.
The example in class was the theme of "Father/Daughter relationships" in terms of the contexts "expectations" and "redemption." Expectations and Redemption were then further narrowed into "physical" and "emotional."


The purpose of the following paper is to identify how themes like gender identity as well as mistaken identity have been developed in two Shakespearean plays, named – Julius Caesar and Twelfth Night. Plots of both of the considered plays have strongly evolved around the theme of gender and identity. The paper is therefore aiming to make a profound comparison between Julius Caesar and Twelfth Night on their individual approach towards the theme of gender identity and mistaken identity. In Twelfth Night, the plot strongly relies on the theme of gender identity and mistaken identity, while in Julius Caesar; the plot gives importance on the theme of power rather than the theme of gender identity (Gray 2016). The thesis statement of the present paper would be henceforth to establish that Twelfth Night has drawn the themes more vibrantly than Julius Caesar has.

The phrase “gender identity” primarily refers to an individual’s perception about having a particular gender. In other words, gender identity is defined as a conception of oneself as female/ male, which may be or may not be corresponded with the birth sex of an individual. The concept of gender identity is closely related with the outward manifestation of individual personality, which is responsible for reflecting gender identity (Winkler 2016). Therefore, it can be said that the percept of gender identity is related with the concept of gender role. In the inaugural act of Julius Caesar, the playwright has set up an atmosphere, which indicates victory of Julius Caesar in one hand and the initiation of conspiracy on the other. In terms of approaching gender and identity, the act only concentrates on the masculine gender and glorifies it through Caesar’s victory and the conspiring activities of Brutus, Cassius, Cinna, Casca and Cicero (Kahn 2013). The identity and importance of the feminine character like Calpurnia in this act is highly overpowered by the patriarchal dominance. Comparatively in the inaugural act of Twelfth Night, the role of both male and female gender has been highlighted and treated with same amount of priority. Neither the male characters have dominated the presence of the female characters, nor have the female characters done the same (Callaghan 2016).

In act two of Twelfth Night, the playwright has significantly focused on stressing the potential gender ambiguity by drawing Viola’s disguise and fooling Olivia to fall in love with her disguised identity. In Act 2, the role of gender and disguised identity has played a relatively stronger role (Taylor 2014). On the other hand, in Act 2 of Julius Caesar, though the focus on patriarchal power continues to rule, the role of female power has been initiated through Calpurnia’s recounts and Portia’s urge to her husband to tell her what is going on. The role and importance of female role has been establish in the particular act by Calpurnia’s act of dreaming the horrifying death of her husband, which later turns into truth (Shakespeare 2015). Moreover, the identical importance of the female characters has been established through the dominant presence of Portia in Act 2, scene 4.

In Act, three of Julius Caesar, patriarchal power or the dominant role of male characters continues to rule over the presence of two female characters and their importance. The particular act beholds the death of Caesar that is the ultimate outcome of the conspiracies of Cassius and Brutus (Naj and Kumar 2016). On the contrary, in Act three of Twelfth Night the play more strongly evolves around the theme of gender identity by the persuasion of identical twist. It is because Viola’s disguise as Cesario is continued to dominate the mind of Olivia, which can be seen as one of the dominant consequences of the potential ambiguity of gender (Sierra 2014).

In act four of Twelfth Night, the impact of the ambiguous identity dominates the activities and consequences of the play as Feste mistakes Sebastian as Cesario. Further, in terms of the consequence of the ambiguous identity, Sebastian starts to wonder whether he is becoming a lunatic or not (Severn 2014). On the contrary, in Act 4 of Julius Caesar, through Portia’s act of rebellion of her own and through act of committing suicide and Brutus’ explanation of Portia’s death finally imply the importance of the female characters, which has not been addressed by the male characters due to hunger game for power (Winkler 2016). Finally, in Act five of Twelfth Night where finally the potential ambiguity of gender identity comes to revelation, the identical dominance of the male characters in Act 5 of Julius Caesar has found to be suppressed by the role of power. Therefore, it is to say that the theme of gender identity has not been developed with priority as other themes as power and conspiracy have dominated the plot. On the other hand, the plot of Twelfth Night has relied on the theme of gender identity strongly and from characterization to design consequences, the dominance of the identical ambiguity is visible thoroughly (Sierra 2014).

The phrase - “mistaken identity” is synonymous with the situation where a person’s apparent identity is mistaken. The application of the distinct theme is difficult to identify as mistaken identity several times is infused in an ironical and metaphorical ways in literary creations. The theme of “mistaken identity: have not taken place in Julius Caesar fruitfully whereas one of the dominant themes of Twelfth Night has been mistaken identity along with the theme of gender identity (Neely 2016). The Act one of Julius Caesar has concentrated on highlighting the triumphant return of Caesar and seed of conspiracy growing in the minds of Brutus, Cassius, Cinna, Casca and Cicero against Caesar. Therefore, understandably there has been no proper portrayal of the theme of mistaken identity. On the contrary, the inaugural act of Twelfth Night sets the theme of mistaken identity by Viola’s decision to take disguise of a boy instead of being a girl. Act two of Julius Caesar continues to grow conspiracy against Caesar and no development of the theme of mistaken identity is noticed, whereas in act two of Twelfth Night, the theme or mistaken identity starts to determine consequences and activities of love and attraction.

Similarly, in act three of Twelfth Night the theme of mistaken identity draws Olivia’s affection and attraction more intensely towards Cesario whereas act three of Julius Caesar focuses on the murder of Julius. Therefore, again there is lack of development of the theme of mistaken identity in Julius Caesar. However, act 4 of Julius Caesar can be called as an act driven by the theme of mistaken identity. Through Portia’s unfortunate death and ignorance towards Calpurnia’s prophetic dream, it can be said that the play has metaphorically established the theme of mistaken personality or identity of the female characters (Naj and Kumar 2016). It is the only act where through the death of Portia, the male attributes of her has been completely mistaken. Similarly, the Act 4 of Twelfth Night is the penultimate stage, which has embodied the theme of mistaken identity through showing Feste’s act of mistaking Sebastian as Cesario. Finally, in act 5 of Julius Caesar, the play continues to concentrate on its theme - irony of power whereas in Twelfth Night the theme of mistaken identity comes to its peak as the ambiguity of identity resolves through the revelation of some of the chief characters whose identities have been mistaken throughout the play.

Henceforth, it can be concluded that both of the considered theme – mistaken identity and gender identity have been properly and better addressed and developed in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night rather than Julius Caesar.


Callaghan, D., 2016. A feminist companion to Shakespeare. John Wiley & Sons.

Gray, P., 2016. Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and the Medieval English Stage Tyrant. Comparative Drama, 50(1), p.12.

Kahn, C., 2013. Roman Shakespeare: Warriors, Wounds and Women. Routledge.

Naj, S. and Kumar, D., 2016. Use of Political Rhetoric in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. and Literature, 2(3), p.80.

Neely, C.T., 2016. Lovesickness, Gender, and Subjectivity: Twelfth Night and As You Like It. A Feminist Companion to Shakespeare, p.294.

Severn, J.R., 2014. All Shook Up and the Unannounced Adaptation: Engaging with Twelfth Night's Unstable Identities. Theatre Journal, 66(4), pp.541-557.

Shakespeare, W., 2015. The Life and Death of Julius Caesar. William Shakespeare.

Sierra, H., 2014. Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare (review). Theatre Journal, 66(4), pp.611-613.

Taylor, C., 2014. 'Twelfth Night': A Critical Reader ed. by Alison Findlay and Liz Oakley-Brown (review). Parergon, 31(2), pp.164-165.

Winkler, M.M., 2016. Mark Antony and Popular Culture: Masculinity and the Construction of an Icon by Rachael Kelly (review). Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 46(1), pp.72-74.

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