This article argues that Shakespeare’s use of the trope of signet ring and wax seal to explain gender relations in both Rape of Lucrece and Twelfth Night participates in a discourse of binary gender difference and at the same time disrupts that narrative of totalizing difference. In both works, Shakespeare displaces the trope onto relationships between women and, in doing so, creates possibilities for female agency that the trope initially seems to deny. When used to figure female relationships, the trope explores sympathy, desire, and class difference, uneasily narrating complex interactions. Just as wax is malleable, so too is the trope and its multiple deployments in Shakespeare’s texts around female relationships suggest that neither those relationships nor the cross-sex relationships explicitly narrated by the trope are as straightforward as they initially seem.
Maxwell, Lynn M.
"Writing Women, Writing Wax: Metaphors of Impression, Possibilities of Agency in Shakespeare’s Rape of Lucrece and Twelfth Night,"
Criticism: Vol. 58
, Article 4.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/criticism/vol58/iss3/4