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How does Shakespeare use the theme of disguise and concealment to dramatic effect in Twelfth Night?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare use the theme of disguise and concealment to dramatic effect in 'Twelfth Night'? Disguise and concealment are major features in Twelfth Night. Shakespeare uses these themes as the basis for this play. Shakespeare has been able to manipulate and use disguise and concealment in whatever way he likes; to usually portray comedy, misunderstanding, affection and also to give information to the audience without the characters knowing. Shakespeare is very clever in the way that he creates certain contrasting dramatic effects such as comedy, tragedy and uneasiness through disguise and concealment. Concealment is used strongly throughout the play. Viola - one of the main characters is the most obvious example of this. At the very start of the play, Viola asks the Sea Captain to change her appearances. 'Conceal me what I am'. The sea captain then helps her to conceal herself and change her entire appearance to that of a man. Viola also needs the male appearance to survive. She is shipwrecked in a strange land, she is a virgin, and only possessing wit and intelligence. She has no male company for safety, only the captain's friendship. ...read more.

Middle

An example is, as Malvolio reads through the pretend letter, he images himself as Count Malvolio. Malvolio, being a puritan; dislikes Sir Toby's way of life and drunkenness. Sir Toby is often drunk and insults Malvolio. Malvolio says aloud when reading the letter: 'You must amend your drunkenness' and 'you waste the treasure of your time with the foolish knight'. Malvolio speaks with pride and smugness as he imagines Sir Toby curtsying before him. This concealment is dramatically effective because of its comedy. Such comedy continues with the encouragement of Malvolio dressing in yellow stockings - as Maria explains 'he will come to her in yellow stockings, and 'tis a colour she abhors, and cross- gartered, a fashion sense she detests'. Here is even more dramatic irony as the audience know that Maria wrote the letter, that Olivia hates the colour yellow and that Malvolio believes that the letter is actually written by Olivia herself. Maria, Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Fabian are all concealing the truth about the letter and this creates comedy. In addition, by the four characters hiding in the box tree; it exposes Malvolio's true intentions - that he does not love Olivia for who she is, but for his personal status and gain. ...read more.

Conclusion

He sings a song of unfulfilled love, which puts forth the idea of what could happen in another situation. While the other characters have all been unmasked, Feste's mask can never be discarded due to his role in Olivia's palace as her clown. As Olivia's clown, his job is to be merry and witty on demand for Olivia's personal entertainment. As he resides in Olivia's palace, this fa�ade and persona has to be kept up all the time. As Feste ages, his is scared about losing his job and therefore his true self can never be exposed. Therefore, Feste is the only character in 'Twelfth Night' who does not eventually show something which he is concealing, be that identity or in his case - personality. This makes the last stanza very emotive and meaningful as he unmasks the atmosphere and quotes: 'but that's all one, our play is done.' This helps the audience to return back to reality where everyone is who they say they are - where the sea often kills, mistaken marriages are rarely happy, and where Viola's rarely marry dukes. The theme of disguise and concealment is used to dramatic effect to cause action, plot development, uneasiness, intrigue, misunderstandings, the highlighting of personality flaws, tragedy and comedy. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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