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Discuss the use of disguise and deception in Twelfth Night and its contribution to the play.

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Discuss the use of disguise and deception in Twelfth Night and its contribution to the play. Deception and disguise are two key themes in Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night'. They appear in many different ways throughout the duration of the plot. Some disguises are deceptive and some deceptions are disguised. This essay will explore disguise and deception in the characters and situations in 'Twelfth Night' and discuss their symbolism in relation to the play as a whole. One of the most overt examples of disguise is through the character of Viola. Stranded in Illyria after a shipwreck, she dresses as a male in order to work as a Eunuch for the Duke Orsino 'Thou shall present me as an eunuch to him' (Line 58, Act one, scene two). Through her disguise, Viola manages to deceive Lady Olivia, who falls deeply in love with 'Cesario' 'Cesario...I love thee so that maugre all thy pride' (Act three, scene one). Olivia tries to disguise her feelings but the repressed passion is revealed 'I wish you were as I would have you be' (Act three, scene one). Having given herself to mourning, there is a sense of desperation here. Viola finds it very difficult to disguise her love for Orsino 'never told her love, but let concealment, like a worm i'the bud, feed on her damask' (Act two, scene four). ...read more.


In this way, Viola is deceived. When Sir Toby tires of Sir Andrew; he rejects him 'Will you help? An ass head and a coxcomb and a knave - a thin faced knave, a gull' (Act five, scene one). This rejection is very harsh. The illusion of Sir Toby's humorous character, revealed in earlier scenes, quickly disperses to reveal a darker, crueller personality. Again, the audience has been deceived. Love is deceptive in 'Twelfth Night'. At the beginning of the play, Orsino believes that he is in love with Olivia 'If music be the food of love, play on' (Act one, scene one). It becomes quite clear, however, that he is in love with the notion of love because his love quickly turns to hate 'Live you the marble-breasted tyrant still' (Act five, scene one). Eventually, after finding out the true identity of 'Cesario', he asks Viola to marry him, but only after she removes the male disguise 'Cesario come; for so you shall be, whilst you are a man' (Act five, scene one). Olivia is also deceived in 'Twelfth Night'. She believes that she is in love with 'Cesario' yet she does not know that he is Viola 'I am the man. If it be so - as tis, she were better love a dream' (Act two, scene two). Before the appearance of Sebastian at the end of the play, Olivia is utterly confused and feels deceived 'Ay me detested! ...read more.


Sebastian's role in the play is to strip the illusion of disguise and sort out the confusion 'Sebastian is the reality of which Cesario is the artful imitation' (1). He is confused by the affections of Olivia and the aggression from Sir Andrew Aguecheek 'There's something in't that is deceivable' (Act four, scene three). Despite this, his presence allows a happy ending for all the characters who accept that they have been deceived. The only character who cannot recognise himself at the end is Malvolio because he is 'blinded by pride and self-righteousness' (1). This is why his ending is not happy. Disguise is used to bring comedy into the plot but also teaches the audience about the importance of seeing ourselves and others for who we really are. Whether our disguise be something physical (like Olivia's veil or Viola's male disguise), or something more abstract (Feste's words are an example of this), whilst ever we are 'pretending' to be who we are not, we are deceiving ourselves and others around us. Although Twelfth Night is a comedy, there is a serious message behind all the confusion and many characters get hurt in the quest for happiness. It is not until the characters remove their disguises that they can really achieve their aspirations and the audience - who have also been deceived - can return happily to reality, in the knowledge that all characters got what they deserved in the end. ...read more.

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