Disguises In Twelfth Night Essay Questions

Mistaken Identity for Twelfth Night

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Mistaken Identity William Shakespeare, in his well-known comedy Twelfth Night, creates a plot that revolves around mistaken identity and deception. Mistaken identity, along with disguises, rules the play and affects the lives of several of the characters. Shakespeare’s techniques involve mistaken identity to bring humor, mystery, and complication to the play. Many characters in Twelfth Night assume disguises, beginning with Viola who is disguised as a eunuch, Maria who writes a letter to Malvolio as Olivia, and then the mix-up between Sebastian and Viola are revealed.

The instances of mistaken identity are related to many disguises in the play. Viola, who puts on male attire, begins to have everyone believe that she is a man. By dressing up in male garments, she wants to be taken as a eunuch. Viola assumes the name Cesario. While talking with the captain, Viola begins to realize that Olivia also lost her brother and is grieving just as Viola is for her brother. Viola decides to go to Duke Orsino’s palace to be able to reach Olivia, the Duke’s love.

Viola is going to use the Duke to try to speak with Olivia about their devastating events with their brothers’ deaths. Viola is going to try to be a servant for Duke Orsino which is the reason for disguising herself as a eunuch. In talking with the captain, he says to her, “Be you his eunuch, and your mute I’ll be. When my tongue blabs, then let mine eyes not see” (Shakespeare 13). Through Viola’s change in identity, this situation creates a conflict through the characters. Viola falls in love with Orsino but cannot tell him because he thinks she is a man.

While the love of Orsion, Olivia, falls madly in love with Viola. Olivia is now in love with a woman, and Orsino often remarks on Cesario’s beauty, suggesting that he is attracted to Viola even before her male disguise is removed. Olivia’s head servant Malvolio, a narcisstic character thinks that Olivia is in love with him. His self obsession leads him to these conclusions along with the misleading from Maria and other servants. The conspirators know of Malvolio and his self love and are not fond of him because of their past experiences.

Maria and the conspirators decide to mislead Malvolio into thinking that Olivia is in love with him. Maria decides to lead him on by writing a letter, but means to be from Olivia. This love letter is meant to instruct Malvolio to do actions that Olivia despises. Maria is able to mislead Malvolio because she has the same print and seal as Olivia. Shakespeare is able to trick the characters and create many portrayals of them. The mistaken identity in this play is related to the prevalence of disguises in the play as Viola’s male clothing leads to her being mistaken for her brother Sebastian.

Sebastian is mistaken for Viola (or rather, Cesario) by Sir Andrew and Sir Toby, and then by Olivia, who quickly marries him. Meanwhile, Antonio mistakes Viola for Sebastian and thinks that his friend has betrayed him when Viola claims not to know him. While Viola is in a sword fight against Sir Andrew, Antonio is trying to be a loyal friend by taking the place of Viola, who he thinks is Sebastian. Antonio is not liked by Orsino’s court, so he is then arrested and taken away. While this is happening, Antonio asks Viola for his purse back, which he gives to Sebastian.

Viola becomes extremely confused and claimed not having his purse and being a close friend of his. Antonio takes this as deception and thinks that Sebastian, who is really Viola, is a coward. These cases of mistaken identity, common in Shakespeare’s comedies, create the tangled situation that can be resolved only when Viola and Sebastian appear together, helping everyone to understand what has happened. In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare uses mistaken identity by disguising Viola as a eunuch, having Malvolio think Olivia wrote the letter, and Viola and Sebastian being each other.

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These cases of mistaken identity, common in Shakespeare’s comedies, create many tangled situations that can be resolved in the end of the play with Sebastian and Viola being revealed and Fabian putting in place all the confusion. Shakespeare’s writing uses mystery, confusion and humor. All these mistaken identities are all for the humor of the play. His creativity is shown through the several disguises and portrayals of the characters. This play shows that if you are true to yourself and others, you will live an easier, more truthful life. “No mask like open truth to cover lies, as to go naked is the best disguise” (Congreve 291).

Author: Brandon Johnson

in Twelfth Night

Mistaken Identity for Twelfth Night

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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

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