How does Shakespeare portray the theme of identity in Twelfth Night?

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How does Shakespeare portray the theme

of identity in Twelfth Night?

Twelfth Night is a comedy written by William Shakespeare. It follows certain patterns which are commonly found in Shakespeare’s comedies; it ends in marriage and is based around disguise and false identities. The play starts off with a ship that that was shipwrecked just off the coast of Illyria, and the two main protagonists, Viola and Sebastian are separated and both believe each other to be dead. They both end up in different places and only when, at they end of the play, do they find out that they are both alive.

Viola, when she arrives in Illyria just after the shipwreck, believes that the only way to ensure her survival was to get a job at Orsino’s Court, as a man. She took on Sebastian’s identity, only naming herself Cesario. This means that Sebastian’s memory is kept alive and enabled Viola to fill the gap of his ‘dead’ brother.

Duke Orsino presents himself as an insecure man who is upset about the fact he has no wife. He, along with Olivia, judges people by their looks and this means no one is good enough for him. He expects, being the Duke of the island, someone will come to him to be his wife instead of the other way round. This shows he is quite snobbish and takes his important position to mean that he is the greatest and the best.
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Duke Orsino has great love for Olivia. He sends Cesario to Olivia’s house to see if she loves him. He obviously assumes she will.

Olivia is used to getting her own way and waited on hand and foot. She has not stepped out of her house for seven years. This is because she is mourning for her brother and immerses herself in her own grief. She also hides her true self from strangers by wearing a veil.

When Viola arrives at her house, Olivia is enchanted by Viola and even takes off her veil, a sign ...

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