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"Conceal what I am" - Explore the theme of disguise and deception in "Twelfth Night".

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Deren Huseyin Twelfth Night Coursework Assignment 5. "Conceal what I am" Explore the theme of disguise and deception in "Twelfth Night" William Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night' is based around disguise in the form of deception. In 'Twelfth Night', disguise takes many different shapes from physical to mental disguise. One of the major themes of 'Twelfth Night' is also misperception and deception. Yet, paradoxically along the way there are many problems, deceptions and illusions, providing a comment on human behaviour and creating comedy. In 'Twelfth Night', Shakespeare explores and illustrates the theme of deception and disguise with precise detail. In 'Twelfth Night', it is evident that the fluctuation in attitude to the dual role and situation and tribulations imposed upon the character of Viola ends up in a better understanding of both sexes, and thus, allows Viola to have a better understanding for Orsino. "Stand you awhile aloof. Cesario, Thou know'st no less but all; I have unclasp'd To thee the book even of my secret soul." Here it is apparent that after very little time Viola has won the trust of Orsino through her disguise and he seems to have decided that he can divulge more in Viola than in anyone else. She decides to take on this identity because she has more liberty in society in her Cesario mask, which is obvious when Orsino readily accepts her. Orsino confides in Cesario the most intimate feelings of his 'secret soul' and grows accustomed to Cesario very quickly, whereas, in her female identity, it is clear that she would not enjoy such freedom. ...read more.


Olivia's elaborate, grief-stricken gestures towards her dead brother are examples of dramatised and overly exaggerated displays of emotion. Her grief may well be genuine but her extravagant vow to mourn him for 'seven years', sprinkling her chamber with tears and wearing a veil are quite simply empty gestures. On closer inspection one can also infer that Olivia is perhaps using her brothers death to conceal her aspirations for Cesario to remain close to her. "I bade you never speak again of him; But, would you undertake another suit, I had rather hear you than solicit that Than music from the spheres." It is made explicit to Cesario that she wants to be courted by him, which is comical to the audience as they know about Cesario's masquerade, and this is another example of the way Cesario deceives through disguise. Olivia has just lost her family, but her display of sorrow is very theatrical and self-deluding and seems to be full of barren gestures which say nothing about her true grief but merely disguise her true feelings and serve to self-deceive. Another character that is guilty of self-deception is Olivia's servant Malvolio. A scene, which prepares us for dramatic irony, is when Maria writes the letter to Malvolio, under the pretence that it is from Olivia. As the audience is aware of this deception it sets up the dramatic irony, because Malvolio himself is not aware of it when he finds and reads the letter. ...read more.


I interpret this as Shakespeare alluding to the fact that all disguises can be exposed. This statement is reinforced when Feste says: 'Eyes show the days'. Feste is able to penetrate all the masks of the others, and he succeeds in concealing his own which makes him a master and professional of disguise. Feste is an 'allowed fool' a professional jester who has to be quick witted and clever to make jokes and puns. He is not expected to be idiotic or simple-minded. Viola, in her disguise as Cesario, is able to talk to her lover in a way that she could not do as a woman; she takes advantage of this situation and schools Orsino on the realities of love. "She never told her love,..... Feed on her damask cheek." Here Viola counters Orsino's narcissism with her own sad story of concealed love. Shakespeare accentuates Orsino's exaggerated, excessive idea of love, by showing alongside it the genuine love felt by Viola and therefore Orsino's speech is undermined, as what he said is ironic. So, although Viola is disguising her feelings for Orsino, she does not deceive him and unreservedly hints that she has suppressed feelings for him. Sebastian's relationship with Antonio is one of disguise because Antonio implicitly reveals his 'love' for Sebastian but deceives him and perhaps self-deceives as being just friendship, as one can conjecture that he is gay. "If you will not murder me for your love, let me be your servant". This suggests that Antonio has repressed homosexual feelings for Sebastian that he disguises by pretending to only be his close friend. ...read more.

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