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'Disguise I see thou art a wickedness' (Viola 2.2) What is the function of disguise in Twelfth Night?

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'Disguise I see thou art a wickedness' (Viola 2.2) What is the function of disguise in Twelfth Night? William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night is a play based around disguise in the form of deception and becoming someone different. In Twelfth Night, disguise takes many different shapes from physical disguise to mental disguise. Disguise is one of the main topics of the play and helps to create the plot. It brings in confusion and comedy as well as the darker and sadder side of the play which is disguised as fun and happiness. Disguise is evident from the very beginning of the play. A supposedly noble Duke Orsino is suffering due to his unrequited love for the Lady Olivia. The Lady Olivia, however, is also suffering due to the recent deaths of her brother and father. Her way of mourning them involves her hiding behind a veil or disguising herself from the truth and refusing male company: 'But like a cloistress she will veiled walk, And water once a day her chamber round With eye-offending brine'. Disguise creates confusion when a character named Viola becomes shipwrecked in Illyria, a place previously unknown to her. She has been warned of the dangers of being alone in Illyria and decides that it is best if she disguises herself. ...read more.


When Viola visits Olivia she hints that she is not what she seemed and as the audience we know that she is a woman but Olivia does not and does not catch on: 'No my profound heart: and yet (by the very fangs of malice, I swear) I am not that I play' Viola practically told Olivia that she was a woman but is afraid to say it directly as she is aware of Olivia's feelings towards her. Only one person throughout the play shows an acknowledgement to the fact that she is a woman and that is Feste. He does not mention it to anybody else but he hints to Viola that he suspects the truth. He makes a joke out of the fact that Cesario doesn't look very masculine: 'Now Jove in his next commodity of hair, send thee a beard' Throughout the play Viola gives hints to her true identity which creates comedy because the audience know what the hints mean yet the characters do not. The Duke asks of Cesario's sister, which obviously Viola talking about herself but pretending to be telling of Cesario's sister. Viola replies: 'I am all the daughters of my father's house, and all the brothers too: and yet I know not'. ...read more.


Once in a sea-fight 'gainst the Count his galleys, I did some service, of such note indeed, That were I ta'en here, it would scarce be answer'd'. Feste also helps to reveal this throughout with songs about sadness and sorrow. One song in particular is an example of this: 'When that I was and a little tiny boy, With hey ho, the wind and the rain: A foolish thing was but a toy, For the rain it raineth every day' There are other songs sung by Feste which reveal a darker side to the plot such as songs with lines: 'Come away, come away death, And in sad cypress let me be laid'. Malvolio also promises revenge on those who played the trick on him and his last words symbolise parts of the darker side of Illyria: ' I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you' Disguise is the main plot in Twelfth Night and without it the storyline would not have been possible as disguise was needed in order to create the Orsino, Viola, Olivia love triangle. This is the main event in the play which is created by disguise. Disguise is also used to bring in humour and confusion to the plot without which Twelfth Night would not be the notorious and famous play as we know it today. ...read more.

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