How significant is female agency in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night? 

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It's a man's world. At least it was when Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night.

During the Elizabethan and early Jacobean period in which Shakespeare's plays were written and first performed, the female roles were played by men and boys.

This could be one reason why there are so few females roles in Shakespeare's plays compared to the number of male roles. Of approximately 1200 roles in Shakespeare's plays, fewer than 150 are female roles, a little over 12 percent. In The Tempest, there are fifteen major roles for men, and one...one...major female role (and a couple of female spirits).

In Twelfth Night there are three female roles: Olivia (a wealthy countess), Viola (an aristocratic young lady), and Maria (Olivia's lady-in-waiting). These are also the only female roles in the play.

"Agency" is the ability of a person to act for or on behalf of him/her/themself. Agency generally benefits those who, like Olivia and Viola, have wealth and/or power, and those who are close to wealth and/or power, like...

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