Sense of the Radical Instability of Gender in Shakespeare’s Winters Tale and Twelfth Night

In Winters Tale Shakespeare is clearly determined to convey that nature can be altered by art and the cross-dressing episode is as much a manifestation of this theme as the cross-breeding of flowers as discussed by Polixenes and Perdita. Polixenes makes a poignant observation while discussing the art of cross-breeding flowers when he says:
Quite apart from the restorative prowess of art in respect of mending and altering nature, Shakespeare portrays women as quality, noble human beings. By contrast, the men of Winters Tale are belligerent and border on qualities aligned with madness. Leontes for example unjustifiably accuses Hermoine, his queen with infidelity. The manner in which Hermoine responds to Leontes’s false accusations speaks volumes of her strength and courage as a woman. She is dignified whereas Leontes is insecure and jealous. Both reactions appear to be improbable and are more demonstrative of gender instability than anything else. For instance, in the face of Leontes’ accusations of infidelity Hermoine says:

Hermoine’s observation is a manifestation of gender instability as much as cross-dressing in that she speaks eloquently of a shifting of gender roles and identity. In contrast to societal norms, she is stoic rather than emotional in the face of false accusations.
It is obvious in this scene that there is a concern for the emotional and stressed state that Leontes is found to be in. In the course of a discussion with Leontes over his anxiety, a trait usually assigned to women we learn that Leontes’ son is greatly distressed as well. Leontes informs his house guest:
Cross-dressing is tied in with these themes of gender shifting and the notion that art alters nature. There is no escaping the symbolic representation that clothing deconstructs and highlights gender differences. In Act IV Scene IV Autolycus&nbsp.submits that it is a relatively easy task to “geld a codpiece of a purse.”