Twelfth Night Essay

3617 words - 14 pages

Vatsal GandhiProfessor SohwardyEnglish Drama to 1642May 1, 2014Different Stretches of DisguiseOftentimes playwrights utilize particular elements to emphasize certain aspects of their play. In this case disguise provokes confusion and creates a space in which social boundaries are suspended. When identities are concealed, characters face an unsurpassed freedom to test the limitations of their power in courtship. In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare has complicated the relationship between Olivia and Viola by cloaking Viola as a male, hence Cesario. Viola's identity up until the end is double-gendered, and the romantic frustrations she feels as Viola in courting her master Orsino leak into her interactions with Olivia as Cesario. The friendship and respect Viola feels for Olivia as a woman merge with the inherent cravings of her heart to provoke in Olivia's mind the luscious fantasies of an admirer. The fact that she is a male disguised as a female allows Shakespeare to test of the female role in courtship. The situation is different in Philip Massinger's, A New Way to Pay Old Debts. Allworth is Lord Lovell's servant and his low-class disallows him from acting on his love for Sir Giles Overreach's daughter, Margaret; Overreach desires a suit between his daughter and an even higher Lord Lovell. Allworth uses this desire to hatch a plan with Lovell and acts upon his love for Margaret. He disguises himself as a messenger who Lovell entrusts to recite his love letters to Margaret. Accordingly Lovell's love letters enable Allworth to openly pursue his and Margaret's suit without Overreach finding out. Taken together, the two plays illustrate different meanings of disguise for men and women, and its impact on the interactions between the sexes in courtship.The situation of their initial meet would not seem beneficial for an affection to develop between Olivia and Viola. The countess is mourning the young death of her beloved brother, Viola, who is now Cesario, is a messenger from an undesired suitor, and is reluctantly allowed entrance. "Most radiant, excusive and unmatchable beauty-" (I, v, 151) she commences in somber attention to her text. This flattery is phony and overblown, disparate from the usual conversational tone that normally characterizes Viola's diction. Her praise abruptly transitions into honesty, where she admits she has "taken great pains to con" flattery like that above (I, v, 154). Accordingly, Viola's sharp wit has rapidly revealed itself. She tries to deliver the verses that Orsino has trusted her with, but Viola's embellishments quickly disturb Olivia's attention from any thoughts of Orsino. Olivia is accustomed to the characteristics of Orsino's composed love declarations, and Cesario's individual remarks make a lively exit from Orsino's text. Viola continues her natural diction, with the follow-up of undermining Orsino's verses by mocking its sincerity. "Alas, I took great pains to study it, and/ 'tis poetical," (I, v, 173) she states...

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