Use of Disguise in Twelfth Night Essays

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Twelfth Night, "there's something in it that is deceivable". Disguise is very important as a theme in the Twelfth Night. In fact, disguise is a crucial plot to the play. It is the thread which runs through the play from start to end and holds it all together. Yet, paradoxically along the way there are many problems, deceptions and illusions, providing a comment on human behavior and creating comedy.

Women's parts were played by boy actors in Shakespeare's day, so the audience would have found special sophistication in Viola's part: a boy dressing up as a woman who, in the play disguises herself as a man.

The first example of disguise in the Twelve Night is viola's disguise as Cesario. It is in fact central to the plot. I
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However, there is also emotional disguise: Olivia thinks she really wants to cut herself off from the world and Viola pretends she wants Orsino to marry someone else.

Also, perhaps Viola is in disguise herself. She can see through other people's disguises or flaws, that not even they are able to spot. Some characters are deceived about their true nature. An example of this is that Orsino sees himself becoming "one self same king" of Olivia's "sweet perfections", fulfilling her sexual desire, thought and feeling ("liver, brain and heart"). He naively believes that he is in love with Olivia when he has never really spoken with her!

Another example is Olivia adopting the pretence of mourning and the puritanical Malvolio is tricked into the role of Olivia's suitor and becomes a smiling courtier.

There are many examples of disguise and Viola / Cesarios disguise alone enables her to work for Orsino as a messenger, it causes Olivia to fall in love with her and it causes both of them to disguise their feelings from each other. From "I prithee tell me what thou think'st of me" to "Would it be better, madam, than I am?" Viola and Olivia spin in a web of doubt about disguised identity and emotions.

The disguise also prevents Viola from expressing her love for Orsino, it contributes to the dramatic ironies and it causes complications of mistaken identity. As Viola cannot show her

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