Function Of Disguise In Twelfth Night By William Shakespeare

1569 words - 6 pages

Function of Disguise in Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night is a play based around disguise in
the form of deception and becoming someone different. In Twelfth Night,
disguise takes many different shapes from physical disguise to mental
disguise. Disguise is one of the main topics of the play and helps to
create the plot. It brings in confusion and comedy as well as the
darker and sadder side of the play which is disguised as fun and
happiness. Disguise is evident from the very beginning of the play. A
supposedly noble Duke Orsino is suffering due to his unrequited love
for the Lady Olivia. The Lady Olivia, however, is also suffering due
to the recent deaths of her brother and father. Her way of mourning
them involves her hiding behind a veil or disguising herself from the
truth and refusing male company:

'But like a cloistress she will veiled walk,

And water once a day her chamber round

With eye-offending brine'.

Disguise creates confusion when a character named Viola becomes
shipwrecked in Illyria, a place previously unknown to her. She has
been warned of the dangers of being alone in Illyria and decides that
it is best if she disguises herself. Viola disguises herself as
Cesario, a male eunuch, and goes to work for the Duke Orsino. Unaware
that Cesario is not what he seems, the Duke Orsino becomes very
friendly with Cesario after just three of having known each other.
Unsuccessful in his pursuit of Olivia, Orsino sends Cesario to gain
her affection for him because he thinks she will be taken in by
Cesario's youth. Viola, dressed as Cesario, falls in love with the
duke Orsino but receives unwanted attention from Olivia who is taken
in by his youth. Viola's disguise is responsible for her being caught
up in the unusual love triangle and she says of Olivia:

'Poor Lady, she were better love a dream,

Disguise I see thou art a wickedness'.

This is not the only way in which disguise is used in Twelfth Night,
it is also used to create comedy. The Lady Olivia's uncle Sir Toby
Belch is always being foolish with his friends: Sir Andrew Aguecheek
and Maria, the maid. Malvolio, Olivia's steward is forever telling
them to stop fooling about and Toby, Andrew and Maria take their
revenge by playing a trick on him. Maria disguises her handwriting as
Olivia's as their handwriting is very similar:

'I can write very like my Lady your niece, on a forgotten matter we
can hardly make distinction of our hands'.

She writes a counterfeit letter to Malvolio stating that Olivia is in
love with him when of course she is not. The letter also says that to
impress Olivia Malvolio should adorn yellow, cross-gartered stockings
which Olivia detests. Malvolio follows the letter's advice much to
Maria, Toby and Andrew's delight and dresses in the...

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