The Anxiety of Attire: The Troubling Subtext of Twelfth Night’s Act IV
Question: • Did anyone find it odd that Olivia cannot tell Cesario from Sebastion?
A slight historical interlude: • Sumptuary laws were enacted in England during this time • These made it a crime to wear certain clothes e.g. a woman wearing a man’s clothing. • Driving force behind the laws is a fear within society about the role of identity? • Do the clothes make the man or the man the clothes? • Theaters were often running up against this problem.
Basis in Structuralism • Symbols signify meaning • Order results from an agreed upon meaning for a symbol: signifier = signified • Disorder would result from disagreement on what a symbol means: signifier = ?
Structuralism and Sumptuary Laws • Signifier A Dress Woman
Structuralism and Sumptuary Laws • Signifier Signified pants MAN
Contradictions • However, England was full of problematic symbols
Twelfth Night’s Connection • Looking at Twelfth Night Act IV find one example of the Renaissance Anxiety about attire and disordering society: • Act IV Scene 1 • Act IV Scene 2 • Act IV scene 3 • What is the example and how could this negatively impact society?