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Essay/Term paper: Twelfth night: two faces, one mind

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Twelfth Night

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Twelfth Night: Two Faces, One Mind

As in most comedies, William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night extensively
uses disguises, masks and mistaken identities to add to the comical nature of
the play. Viola's disguise as Orsino's page, Cesario, becomes crucial to the
action in the play. Without this important element, the action in the play would
slow down dramatically, making the story much less intriguing. In addition to
making the play less interesting, the disguise is also necessary to develop the
storyline involving Sebastian, and the confusion that his return creates. It
also is vital to the conflict between Olivia and Orsino, which depends on
Viola's disguise to keep things exciting.

Viola's disguise becomes increasing more important as the events take
place. The majority of the plot lines depend on the disguise. Without it, the
main theme of the play would be the gulling of Malvolio. In a play where most of
the characters fall in love with each other, blind to the gender and true
identity of the objects of their desires, a disguise like Viola's becomes the
center of the action, and causes almost all the of the important aspects of the

The confusion that Sebastian creates when he returns would not occur
without Viola's disguise. Sir Andrew believes that the woman of his desires,
Olivia, is spending too much time with Cesario, and challenges him to a duel. As
he put it, Olivia was doing "more favors to the Count's servingman than ever she
bestowed upon me." (3-2 l.5-7) At first, Viola is nearly forced into a battle,
but is saved when the confused Antonio arrives. Later on, Sebastian and Andrew
do get involved in a scuffle, for which Viola is unjustly blamed. Finally
Sebastian and Viola are reunited, but only after they have already caused a
large amount of chaos and have confused everyone. It is only then that everyone
begins to discover the extent of Viola's trickery.

More disorder is created when Olivia, who Orsino is hopelessly in love
with, falls for Cesario, who is secretly in love with Orsino. Orsino sends
Cesario to express his affection for Olivia, which Cesario/Viola is not thrilled
with. As she puts it, "whoe'er I woo, myself would be his wife." (1-4 l.45)
This also causes Olivia to become interested in Cesario. Throughout the play,
Viola must continue to reject Olivia's advances while concealing her true
identity. However when Sebastian arrives. her plan begins to fall apart. Olivia
admits to loving her, which makes Orsino angry. However when all of the truth
has been told, Orsino realizes what has happened and agrees to marry Viola, with
Olivia marrying Sebastian, the next best thing to Cesario.

Viola's disguise, and the resulting chaos, are basically the most
important elements of the plot of the play, and are crucial to the development
of the plot. Without it, there would be little excitement or intrigue, and
Shakespeare would not be able to thoroughly reflect his views of humanity.


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