Twelfth Night Disguise Essay

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Twelfth Night, "there's something in it that is deceivable". Disguise is very important as a theme in the Twelfth Night. In fact, disguise is a crucial plot to the play. It is the thread which runs through the play from start to end and holds it all together. Yet, paradoxically along the way there are many problems, deceptions and illusions, providing a comment on human behavior and creating comedy.

Women's parts were played by boy actors in Shakespeare's day, so the audience would have found special sophistication in Viola's part: a boy dressing up as a woman who, in the play disguises herself as a man.

The first example of disguise in the Twelve Night is viola's disguise as Cesario. It is in fact central to the plot. I…show more content…

However, there is also emotional disguise: Olivia thinks she really wants to cut herself off from the world and Viola pretends she wants Orsino to marry someone else.

Also, perhaps Viola is in disguise herself. She can see through other people's disguises or flaws, that not even they are able to spot. Some characters are deceived about their true nature. An example of this is that Orsino sees himself becoming "one self same king" of Olivia's "sweet perfections", fulfilling her sexual desire, thought and feeling ("liver, brain and heart"). He naively believes that he is in love with Olivia when he has never really spoken with her!

Another example is Olivia adopting the pretence of mourning and the puritanical Malvolio is tricked into the role of Olivia's suitor and becomes a smiling courtier.

There are many examples of disguise and Viola / Cesarios disguise alone enables her to work for Orsino as a messenger, it causes Olivia to fall in love with her and it causes both of them to disguise their feelings from each other. From "I prithee tell me what thou think'st of me" to "Would it be better, madam, than I am?" Viola and Olivia spin in a web of doubt about disguised identity and emotions.

The disguise also prevents Viola from expressing her love for Orsino, it contributes to the dramatic ironies and it causes complications of mistaken identity. As Viola cannot show her

Essay on Disguises and Mistaken Identity in Twelfth Night

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Mistaken identity and disguise are important aspects of comedy in Twelfth Night that stand at the forefront of the play’s comedy. Not only are mistaken identities and disguise evident within the main plot of the play but also in various other situations. Sexual confusion amongst characters, subversion of gender roles and farcical elements through stagecraft all effectively contribute to the dramatic comedy genre. However, it can be suggested that certain elements of Twelfth Night are not interpreted to be purely comedic; Shakespeare has incorporated serious and controversial subjects such as the idea of genuine love, the patriarchy of the time and the cruel gulling of Malvolio. Therefore, disguise and mistaken identity are not solely for…show more content…

Orsino continues to address Viola by her male name. Thus, it could be questioned whether Orsino is truly in love with Viola, or if he is more infatuated of her male facade. In an Elizabethan era, Sodomy was a capital offense; as a result this latent hint of homoeroticism may evoke surprise although may not have been taken seriously. Consequently, this may provoke incredulous laughter in the Elizabethan audience, an idea suggested by numerous modern day critics. This is closely related to the concept of incongruity theory of laughter, ‘the idea that we laugh at mismatched ideas or elements, the juxtaposition of incompatible things’. In this instance, Shakespeare is using mistaken identity to create sexual confusion amongst characters, which evoke humour. However, Shakespeare may possibly be trying to communicate a fundamental message about the true nature of love and whether genuine love should be deemed as wrong purely based on gender.

Similarly, this idea relates to the suggestion that Shakespeare may use mistaken identity and disguise to challenge society’s social norms and values in an Elizabethan period. At the time, it was a patriarchal society, male dominated, by which women remained passive and had to conform to social expectations. However, by disguising Viola as a man, Shakespeare allows a woman to gain a considerable amount of power and subvert the stereotypical social order. An example of this is when Viola is given the power to ‘woo’ Olivia for

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