Different Forms Of Disguise And Deception In Twelfth Night

1121 words - 4 pages

Different Forms of Disguise and Deception in Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night is said to be Shakespeare's most complete comedy. As in
most comedies, Twelfth Night celebrates different forms of disguise
and deception in order to make the play more entertaining. ”There's
something in it that is deceivable”(ActIV, ScIII), indeed the crux of
the play is based on disguise and deception. The most significant
deception would definitely be Viola’s disguise as Orsino’s page,
Cesario, which makes the story remarkably intriguing. In addition to
Viola’s disguise, the deceptions of some characters further intensify
the amusement of the play. The different forms of disguise and
deception paradoxically throughout the play lead to a lot of
misunderstanding and subsequently, a lot of humour.

Viola’s disguise as Cesario is the origin of much of the deception in
the play. At the very beginning, Viola has been warned of the dangers
of being alone in Illyria, therefore she is determined to go into
disguise, “conceal me what I am” (ActI, ScII). Viola is then disguises
as a male eunuch and works for the Duke Orsino. Under the impression
that Cesario is a boy with youthful looks, the Duke sent Cesario to
woo the Lady Olivia on his behalf. Sarcastically, a love triangle is
formed since not only Viola who has fallen in love with Orsino, Olivia
has fallen in love with Cesario as well. As Cesario is a boy in
Orsino’s eyes, Viola is unable to confess her love for Orsino, “I'll
do my best to woo your lady/ Yet, a barful strife! Whoe'er I woo,
myself would be his wife” (ActI ScIV). The reality is always kindless,
Olivia is not interested in the Duke, “Your lord does know my mind, I
cannot love him” (ActI ScV), and even worse that Olivia is in love
with “youth’s perfections” – Cesario. The disguise is necessary to
develop the storyline involving Sebastian and the confusion with his
return as well.

Apart from the complication of mistaken identity, Viola’s disguise
would have had great comical effect on stage. No women were allowed to
act on stage in the Elizabethan times, therefore Viola would have been
acted by a male actor pretending to be a woman, who was pretending to
be a man. Shakespeare made full advantage of the comic effect and
caused great hilarity among the audience.

There are other characters that are in disguise. The tricking of
Malvolio is in a form of self-deception, he puts on both mental and
physical disguise because of a deception that was created by the other
characters. Maria plays a practical joke on Malvolio’s vanity, saying
that Olivia is in love with him and asks him to obey “every points of
the letter”, thus Malvolio does wear cross gartered yellow stockings
and does smile all the time. Since Olivia does not know...

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