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Describe the different forms of disguise and deception in Twelfth Night

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Describe the different forms of disguise and deception in Twelfth Night Twelfth Night is said to be Shakespeare's most complete comedy. As in most comedies, Twelfth Night celebrates different forms of disguise and deception in order to make the play more entertaining. "There's something in it that is deceivable"(ActIV, ScIII), indeed the crux of the play is based on disguise and deception. The most significant deception would definitely be Viola's disguise as Orsino's page, Cesario, which makes the story remarkably intriguing. In addition to Viola's disguise, the deceptions of some characters further intensify the amusement of the play. The different forms of disguise and deception paradoxically throughout the play lead to a lot of misunderstanding and subsequently, a lot of humour. Viola's disguise as Cesario is the origin of much of the deception in the play. At the very beginning, Viola has been warned of the dangers of being alone in Illyria, therefore she is determined to go into disguise, "conceal me what I am" (ActI, ScII). Viola is then disguises as a male eunuch and works for the Duke Orsino. ...read more.


Shakespeare made full advantage of the comic effect and caused great hilarity among the audience. There are other characters that are in disguise. The tricking of Malvolio is in a form of self-deception, he puts on both mental and physical disguise because of a deception that was created by the other characters. Maria plays a practical joke on Malvolio's vanity, saying that Olivia is in love with him and asks him to obey "every points of the letter", thus Malvolio does wear cross gartered yellow stockings and does smile all the time. Since Olivia does not know anything about the joke, she sees him as a mad man and asks him to leave. Poor Malvolio, he does not know he is being tricked and even take Olivia's words as an encouragement, "Wilt thou go to bed, Malvolio." The eventual outcome is tragic for Malvolio, but it is hilarious for the audience. Another example of disguise and deception in the play is Feste. On one hand, Feste dresses up as Sir Topas to make the mad man - Malvolio to be madder. ...read more.


Some characters are deceived about their true natures. Orsino deceives himself as a conventional love-sick lover that he has retreated into a world of imagination and unreality, "so full of shapes is fancy, that it alone is high fantasical" (ActI ScI). Thus Orsino deludes himself that he is in love with Olivia. Olivia deceives herself while she believes it is proper to mourn her brother for seven years, which is quickly dispelled as she falls in love with Cesario at first sight, "Methinks I feel this perfections" (ActI ScV) Malvolio deceives himself as an important person, "See himself as surrounded by idle things" (ActIII Sc IV) as well as his role of Olivia's suitor. All these characters are trapped by their illusions. Among the many characters in Twelfth Night, some are disguised as someone else, some are deceving themselves, some are being deceived and some are deceived about their true natures. The different forms of disguise and deception has numerous effects, namely to give way to ironic humour, to further explore characters and relationships, to develop the connection between the main plot and the sub-plot and so on. Overall, the play brings up great comic effect by using disguise and deceptoin, making Twelfth Night a truly exceptional piece. ...read more.

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