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What impressions does Shakespeare give of the inhabitants of Illyriain acts one and two, and by what means does he achieve this? - Twelfth Night

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Introduction

What impressions does Shakespeare give of the inhabitants of Illyria in acts one and two, and by what means does he achieve this? The first character we are introduced to in 'Twelfth Night' is Orsino, a count of Illyria. We learn in this first scene that he is in love with a beautiful woman named Olivia by reading his two speeches at the beginning. However, as the play progresses we learn that Orsino is a very self-indulgent character with set ideas about love and what should follow. This is wrong in the first place, as love should come naturally and have no rules, but Orsino is very clear in his mind about 'love' and convinces himself that he is in love with Olivia. We can get a feeling that really he is not in love with Olivia, merely infatuated with her appearance and not what is on the inside: really, Olivia does not treat Orsino well at all and perhaps it is the idea of pursuing this unobtainable prize that so attracts Orsino. Really though, Orsino can be quite a ridiculous character in terms of his self-indulgence: he has quite obviously been fawned over all his life due to his status in Illyria and so he acts like a spoilt little boy that cannot have a toy that he so desperately wants. ...read more.

Middle

This may be counted for by the fact that Olivia does not have anyone to talk to despite her many servants (including the cheeky Maria) and feels lonely, and when Cesario appears they both seem to be on the same mental wavelength. They get along extraordinarily well and she begins to develop a great sense of affection for "him", in much the same way as Orsino has. Malvolio is a steward to Olivia and is the most detestable character in the entire play. He is very much designed to be the 'bad guy'; in fact his name means 'bad one' when translated into Latin. Malvolio really has no sense of humour at all; he is a very strict Puritan and seems to think that laughter is a stupid decadence provided by idiots like Feste for other idiots like Sir Toby (Olivia's uncle), both of whom he despises with a vengeance. He very much wants to get rid of both of them, as they seem to represent everything that Malvolio is so against: laughter, song, dancing and drunkenness, high jinks in the kitchen late at night and card games. In fact, even good-tempered Toby bellows at him (in Act 2 scene 3): "Art thou any more than a steward? ...read more.

Conclusion

and keep him very much amused, the most prominent being to make a fool of Malvolio in Act 2 with the letter from "Olivia", which has in fact been written by Maria herself, who can easily imitate Olivia's writing style. Maria likes to join in Sir Toby's foolery and mockery of Sir Andrew, for example "... a dry jest sir..." on page 53. Fabian, although a minor part at present, develops into a somewhat larger character later on. He is a servant in Olivia's household and appears to be friendly with Maria and Feste, joining in their 'hilarious' trick on Malvolio with the letter. He is much like Maria in his temperament and sense of humour. Valentine and Curio are perhaps the smallest speaking parts in the play. They are young gentlemen serving Orsino and know to pamper and fuss over him such as he has been accustomed to all his life. They develop a jealousy of Cesario very early in the play, as Orsino takes a shine to 'him' and lets him do a lot of errands that they have become used to doing. Orsino also spends a lot of time with Cesario and no doubt gives him gifts as rewards for bringing back news from Olivia. ...read more.

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