Comparison of Cross Dressing in the Twelfth Night and Yi Zhong Yuan/COMPARISON DU TRAVERTISME DANS LA NUIT DES ROIS ET YI ZHONG YUAN

By Liu, Bo-wen | Cross - Cultural Communication, December 31, 2009 | Go to article overview

Comparison of Cross Dressing in the Twelfth Night and Yi Zhong Yuan/COMPARISON DU TRAVERTISME DANS LA NUIT DES ROIS ET YI ZHONG YUAN


Liu, Bo-wen, Cross - Cultural Communication


Abstract:

The device of cross dressing is adopted both by Renaissance writer Shakespeare and Chinese writer Li Yu in late Ming and Early Qing dynasty. This paper makes a comparison between Shakespeare's work The Twelfth Night and Li Yu's Yi Zhong Yuan (The Desired Ideal Matches), in which the female protagonists are dressed in men's cloth. The two female protagonists transgress into men's world by cross dressing, showing the ambiguity of gender identity and challenging the dominant system by men. However, they owed different attitudes towards cross dressing and different level of masculinity. Traced back into the concept of gender in two cultures, we may find an answer to this difference.

Key Words: cross dressing; gender; Renaissance; imperial China

Résumé: Le procédé du travertisme est adopté à la fois par un écrivain de Renaissance, Shakespeare, et un écrivain chinois Li Yu, à la fin de la dynastie des Ming et au début des Qing. Ce document établit une comparaison entre l'Oevre de Shakespeare, La Nuit des Rois et celui de Li Yu, Zhong Yi Yuan (le Couple idéal désiré), dans lesquels les héroïnes se sont habillées en homme. Les deux héroïnes entrent dans le monde des hommes par le moyen de travertisme, tout en montrant l'ambiguïté de l'identité sexuelle et la contestation du système dominant par les hommes. Toutefois, elles ont des attitudes différentes vis-à-vis du travertisme et sont de niveau différent de la masculinité. En remontant au concept de sexe dans ces deux cultures, nous pourrions trouver une réponse à cette différence.

Mots-Clés: travestisme;sexe; Renaissance; Chine impériale

Cross dressing is a very interesting phenomenon in plays, which means women in men's attires or vice versa. It can be found both in Chinese and western traditions, which is adopted by playwrights to create intriguing plots to arouse the interest of the authence and entertain them. However, for cross dressing involves the transformation of the characters' gender identities, the study of cross dressing entails an investigation of gender issues from both cultures and the similarities and differences between them. This essay will discuss the special phenomenon of women characters in men's attires in The Twelfth Night written by Shakespeare from England and Yi Zhong Yuan (The Desired Ideal Matches) written by Li Yu from China, from the perspective of gender identity in Chinese and western cultures.

1. INTRODUCTION: HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE TWO PLAYS

1.1 Social background

William Shakespeare (1564 -1616) was a preeminent English poet and playwright in the Renaissance era. Li Yu (1610 - 1680) was an outstanding Chinese playwright and novelist in late-Ming and early-Qing dynasties. Twelfth Night is believed to have been written around 1600-1601, while Yi Zhong Yuan has been written in about 1653.

Although the two writers lived in different periods in different countries, the historical background of their lifetime are similar. Renaissance era is a period advocating humanism and self-awareness. Beginning in Italy, it spread to England by the early 16th century, whose influence affected literature, philosophy, art, science, religion, and other aspects of intellectual inquiry. The late-Ming and early-Qing dynasties witnessed the wane of feudalism and the germination of capitalism. Cultural movement in this period emphasized natures of human and liberation of humanity, freeing oneself from the oppression of feudal doctrines.

Many Renaissance novels and plays feature the device of cross dressing. Shakespeare produced five plays in which female characters are dressed in men's attire: As You Like It, The Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Cymbeline. Other famous plays featuring cross-dressed women in this era include John LyIy 's Gallathea (1587), Thomas Middleton's Roaring Girl (1611) and More Dissembler's Besides Women (1615). (Liao Weichun 48) Generally speaking, women enjoyed more liberty in Renaissance than before, greatly influenced by the free society created by Queen Elizabeth. …

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