Female Transvestism and Male Self-Fashioning in As You Like It and La vida es sueño
In Neil Jordan’s film The Crying Game, a lonely transvestite male comes to stand in for the straight hero’s own lack of identity; his lack of stable social allegiances and of a role that fits his nature. Transvestism, as a signifier of shifting identity and reference, of deceptiveness and inauthenticity as opposed to unity and self-coherence, is both a peculiarly postmodern motif and a quintessentially Renaissance trope. The “rise of the individual” in the Renaissance at a quite profound level comprises a disobeying of the sumptuary laws which inculcated the order of degree. The grounds of the gender difference in the Renaissance are more mutable. Where the gender binary in the Renaissance is, more than anything, defined hierarchically, a man in a subordinate or childlike position is, logically, feminised.