Sea travel was both uncomfortable and hazardous in the late sixteenth century, and even more so for women. Shakespeare's shipwrecked twins in Twelfth Night (1602) grace the stage at a time when sea travel for women was both uncommon and fraught with danger. Seafaring women faced captivity, slavery, and enforced marriage as passengers or the rare sailor aboard captured vessels, and this danger served to actively discourage sea travel for women. Viola, however, is not the first woman literary traveler to shipwreck on the shores of Illyria. Harmonia, wife of Cadmus in Ovid's Metamorphoses, arrives first. These female travelers' mobility and metamorphosis within their respective tales resist the anticipated resolutions of romance and, in Twelfth Night, festival. Like Harmonia, Viola's Illyrian shipwreck transforms her gender, her shape, and ultimately her identity. Ancient and early modern knowledge of Illyria, the geographic and cultural region, also underscores thematic emphasis on travel and mobility within Twelfth Night. The shipwreck, the cross-dressing, and the lover's complaints all frame Viola as a character from romance. However, by 1602, the maritime might of the English and the rapidly growing seafaring infrastructure also infuse this text. Viola the page-errant is also the early modern woman voyager, a less explored aspect of Viola's crisis of identity on the shores of Illyria.

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