Throughout Twelfth Night, disguise and mistaken identity works as a catalyst for confusion and disorder which consistently contributes towards the dramatic comic genre of the play. Many characters in Twelfth Night assume disguises, beginning with Viola, who disguises herself as a man in order to serve Orsino, the Duke. By dressing his protagonist in male garments, Shakespeare creates ongoing sexual confusion with characters, which include Olivia, Viola and Orsino, who create a ‘love triangle’ between them. Implicitly, there is homoerotic subtext here: Olivia is in love with a woman, despite believing her to be a man, and Orsino often comments on Cesario’s beauty, which implies that he is attracted to Viola even before her male disguise is removed. However, even subsequent to the revealing of Viola’s true identity, Orsino’s declares his love to Viola implying that he enjoys lengthening the pretence of Vio...
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...disguise to add comic effect by encouraging humour of an audience via the ‘theories of laughter’. Comic effect is accurately demonstrated by Shakespeare’s incorporation of confusion, disorder and farce. However, it can be concluded that Shakespeare’s use of mistaken identity and disguise was for the purpose of more than just for comic effect, but to highlight the audience more serious topics and challenge social norms and values of the period. Ironically, it can be inferred that Shakespeare has masked his underlying purpose of mistaken identity and disguise with comedy.
Twelfth Night – William Shakespeare
Twelfth Night: A comedy of misreadings – Jerome Monahan, English review 1996
A Holiday Humour - Shakespeare’s comedies and Bakhtin’s carnival
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