Women's Gender Disguise in Four Comedies by Shakespeare and two stories of One Thousand and One Nights: A Comparative Study

Cross-dressing (as dressing like a man by a woman) is one of types of transvestism, in which the woman resorts to in order to temporarily hide her feminine identity, and by entering the world of men, tries to defend her rights, or stand for the rights of others. This phenomenon has been present in many literary works, and in different cultures. This essay attempt to consider four of Shakespeare’s comedies, As You Like It, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Merchant of Venice and The Twelfth Night and two stories of One Thousand and One Nights, " Ghamar ol-Zaman" and "Ali Shaar and Zomorrod". This study intends to find out the function of cross-dressing as a technique of plot progressing in drama and story. The function of women's gender disguises in all the above mentioned texts has been studied on the basis of Michel Foucault's ideas on "self", "the other" and "power", as well as Helene Cixous's ideas, who believes that in the light of her “binary opposition” theory, masculinity is more privileged, while blighter place is given to femininity. In this view, woman is regarded as the “other” of the man. Moreover, Judith Butler's theory about performance completes the framework of this assay. According to This idea "gender" is the constructed like the others aspect of culture that dominant discourse creates and supports it. In Butler's belief gender is performance- related. In all the texts chosen for this study, heroines deliberately dress up as a man with womanly characteristics and move to new and powerful places in binary oppositions wherein they can show their aptitude and intelligence. One Common factor of all these texts is the knowledge and wit that the women demonstrate when they dress up as a man. So their abilities is not essential but has to do with credibility, therefore their gender is credible and superficial. This is because of these women are aware of old and new position and they seek their old and original position with their new achievement. "Zomorrod" and "Malake Bodoor"_Cross-dressed women in One Thousand and One Nights- proved their “royal” abilities as the supreme position in these texts without casting doubt on themselves. Also, Portia in Merchant of Venice plays the role of a judge, and Viola, Julia and Rosalinda are the heroines with very reliable personalities, although they do not have superior positions. These cross-dressed heroines look for an opportunity to let out their secret and at the end of all stories. All of them redress up as a woman to obtain the real happiness, because they perceive to be a woman and playing role of a good woman in the mentioned opposition is the height of felicity. In other words, they try to reveal their femininity identity as a gender role to achieve favorite position after experience of transrvestism and playing the role of men.

Honar-Ha-Ye-Ziba: Honar-Ha-Ye Mosighi Va Namayeshi, No. 44, 2012
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