The Disguised Heroines of Shakespeare
The IUP Journal of English Studies, Vol. IX, No. 4, December 2014, pp. 21-41
Posted: 4 Aug 2015
Date Written: August 4, 2015
Today, disguise is a living facet of drama. To disguise in a play is to wear some attire that modifies one’s appearance and conceals one’s identity. Disguise thus gives an outward semblance that misrepresents the true nature of someone. And when that someone happens to be a female who chooses to disguise as a male or vice versa (sexual disguise), it results in mistaken identity and the consequent confusion and comical situations. Shakespeare certainly was not the first to use sexual disguise as a plot device in plays, but the credit for turning it into a fine art should undoubtedly go to him. This paper takes a close look at how Shakespeare uses what has come to be called girl-page device to create different levels of awareness and advantage as integral part of plot development, with particular reference to three disguised heroines of Shakespeare — Viola, Rosalind, and Portia.
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