The Function of Disguise in Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

The Function of Disguise in Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare?s play, Twelfth Night is based around disguise and deception, both mental and physical. The deception leads to a lot of misunderstanding and subsequently, a lot of humour. The tale begins in Illyria with the Duke Orsino, who is suffering due to his unrequited love for the Lady Olivia. The Lady is also suffering from the recent loss of her brother and father, and currently wants nothing to do with the equally mournful Duke. A disguise is used for safety when a young character named Viola becomes shipwrecked in Illyria. She has been warned of the dangers of being alone in Illyria and so disguises herself as Cesario, a male eunuch and goes to work for the Duke Orsino, whom she has heard well off. The Duke accepts her service, under the impression that she is a he, and wishes Cesario to attempt to woo the Lady Olivia, thinking she will be taken in by his youthful looks. However, Viola has fallen in love with the Duke Orsino, ?I?ll do my best To woo your lady (Aside) Yet, a barful strife! Whoe?er I woo, myself would be his wife?. Unfortunately for Viola, the Lady Olivia is not interested in The Duke, ?Your lord does know my mind, I cannot love him? and even worse for Viola, the Lady Olivia has taken a liking to her! ?I cannot love him; let him send no more ? Unless perchance you come to me again to tell me how he takes it?.
Viola now sees her disguise as something negative. She is in love with the Duke but cannot tell him so outright but is reduced to dropping hints, and she must now face the affections of another woman on herself, ?Poor lady, she were better love a dream, Disguise I see thou art a wickedness? A disguise has caused Viola much trouble so far, although there is great comic effect in watching Viola attempting to be something she?s not. Another factor that would have had great comical effect if the play were being acted on stage, would be the fact that the actor playing Viola would have been a man. In Shakespeare time women were not allowed to act on stage and so a man, or more probably a teenager who?s voice had not yet broken, would be pretending to be a women, who was pretending to be a man. This would have cause great hilarity among the audience. [image] I believe that Shakespeare was aware of the comic effect this would cause and used it to its full advantage. If you were to see a production of Twelfth Night at a theatre, you will see that they have retained this use of all-male actors, which adds a whole new dimension to the play. Let us now look at another character, Marvolio, who puts on a mental disguise to become someone he?s not. He then goes on to wear a physical one that gets him into trouble because of an illusion that was created for him by some of the other characters. Here Marvolio uses clothes to become someone he is not. The eventual outcome is tragic for Marvolio but hilarious for the audience. . Marvolio is Olivia?s Steward. A dignified person who thinks highly of himself but is considered a fool and killjoy by other members of Olivia?s house. Marvolio, after coming across a late night party - ?My masters are you mad? Or what are you? Have you no wit, manners nor honesty, but to gabble like tinkers at this time of night? â??is there no respect of place, persons nor time, in you?? Because of his Puritanism, Marvolio is then subject to a prank by the Lady Olivia?s Uncle Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek and the maid Maria. One day, when Marvolio is out in the gardens, heard to be talking to his shadow about his attributes and how the Lady Olivia might take a liking to him, he comes across a letter, written in Olivia?s hand, proclaiming her love for him and her particular fancy to cross gartered yellow stockings. Of course the letter was not from Olivia, who does not love Malvolio and detests cross gartered yellow stockings,but from the maid, who could imitate well her lady?s hand. Marvolio then follows the advice in the letter, much to the pranksters delight, and adorns the yellow stockings and takes on a personality not befitting of his past self. He has become jovial and merry and when in the presence of Olivia, seemingly mad! . Oli. Why, how dost thou man? What is the matter with thee? Mal. Not black in my mind, though yellow in my legsâ?? Oli. Wilt thou go to bed, Malvolio? Mal. To bed? Ay, sweetheart, and I?ll come to thee. Oli. God comfort me! Why dost thy thou smile so, and kiss thy hand so oft? Oli. Why, this is very midsummer madness. Seeing the deluded Marvolio in this state is truly hilarious. [image] Clothes show peoples status in society and can show what kind of person they are inside. A punk rocker might be wearing something that is somewhat outlandish, showing that he/she is rebellious and non-conformist. If my English tutor, who seems to be an educated and refined man, were to adopt the personality, and dress code of a punk rocker the results would be humorous. This is what has happened to Malvolio. He has adopted a new personality and dress code which is so unlike him that he is thought to have gone completely mad! Poor, deluded Malvolio is locked up until the end of the play, where upon he is released, questioned, and his foolishness is revealed unto everyone. He leaves with the line - I?ll be reveng?d on the whole pack of you. The dressing up in Twelfth Night brings to light those who have had mental illusions as to who they are. Malvolio is not a dignified puritan, nor is he a jovial and happy man. He is a vain and deluded fool. There is another character, Feste, a clown, who, although is dressed in the clothes of a clown and a fool, is really quite clever, and anything but a fool. Jesters needed to be clever, in order to say things that would amuse their hosts feste:Good madonna, why mourn?st thou? olivia:Good Fool, for my brother?s death. feste:I think his soul is in hell, madonna. olivia:I know his soul is in heaven, fool. feste: The more fool, madonna, to mourn for your brother?s soul, being in heaven. Take away the fool, gentlemen. The irony of the situation is that Feste, as you can see from this verse, is quite an intellect; in fools clothes, while Marvolio is a fool in the clothes of an intellect. This shows that clothes do not always show what type of person you are. The main plot in Twelfth Night is disguise. It was used to create the love triangle between Viola, Orsino and Olivia. The play uses disguise and deception to great comic effect, making it a truly exceptional piece.

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