Twelfth Night : Gender Roles And Disguise Essay

1529 Words Apr 25th, 2016 7 Pages
The Twelfth Night: Gender Roles and Disguise Shakespeare often wrote his characters to portray literal and figurative disguises in order to accomplish some sort of goal. This idea was exemplified and prevalent in The Twelfth Night; a Shakespearean comedy written between 1599 and 1601. In this play, the main protagonist, Viola, disguises herself upon arrival to the country of Illyria to search for her brother, Sebastian, who was lost and thought to be dead after a shipwreck and storm. She assumes the pseudonym of Cesario and disguises herself as a man. As a result, she is able to infiltrate and cause a sense of confusion among the aristocracy of Illyria. The play opens with the Duke of Illyria, Orsino, craving the affection and attention of Countess Olivia. Orsino claims to be lovesick for Olivia. However, Orsino seems to be disingenuous. He is more in love with the idea of love than he is with Olivia. He claims that nothing but Olivia can quench his thirst for love except for Olivia. He claims “If music be the food of love, play on; give me excess of it…” (Act 1, Scene 1). By this statement, Orsino is describing what he feels in the moment, not why he loves Olivia. Duke Orsino is thus creating a love-sick persona for himself. This is the first of many disguises in The Twelfth Night. It is obvious that Orsino does not grasp what love exemplifies; therefore, he is stuck in a state of helplessness. Joseph Summers, author of The Masks of Twelfth Night, argues that Orsino is…

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