Function of Disguise in Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

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Function of Disguise in Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night is a play based around disguise in

the form of deception and becoming someone different. In Twelfth Night,

disguise takes many different shapes from physical disguise to mental

disguise. Disguise is one of the main topics of the play and helps to

create the plot. It brings in confusion and comedy as well as the

darker and sadder side of the play which is disguised as fun and

happiness. Disguise is evident from the very beginning of the play. A

supposedly noble Duke Orsino is suffering due to his unrequited love

for the Lady Olivia. The Lady Olivia, however, is also suffering due

to the recent deaths of her brother and father. Her way of mourning

them involves her hiding behind a veil or disguising herself from the

truth and refusing male company:

'But like a cloistress she will veiled walk,

And water once a day her chamber round

With eye-offending brine'.

Disguise creates confusion when a character named Viola becomes

shipwrecked in Illyria, a place previously unknown to her. She has

been warned of the dangers of being alone in Illyria and decides that

it is best if she disguises herself. Viola disguises herself as

Cesario, a male eunuch, and goes to work for the Duke Orsino. Unaware

that Cesario is not what he seems, the Duke Orsino becomes very

friendly with Cesario after just three of having known each other.

Unsuccessful in his pursuit of Olivia, Orsino sends Cesario to gain

her affection for him because he thinks she will be taken in by

Cesario's youth. Viola, dressed as Cesario, falls in love with the

duke Orsino but ...

... middle of paper ...

...was but a toy,

For the rain it raineth every day'

There are other songs sung by Feste which reveal a darker side to the

plot such as songs with lines:

'Come away, come away death,

And in sad cypress let me be laid'.

Malvolio also promises revenge on those who played the trick on him

and his last words symbolise parts of the darker side of Illyria:

' I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you'

Disguise is the main plot in Twelfth Night and without it the

storyline would not have been possible as disguise was needed in order

to create the Orsino, Viola, Olivia love triangle. This is the main

event in the play which is created by disguise. Disguise is also used

to bring in humour and confusion to the plot without which Twelfth

Night would not be the notorious and famous play as we know it today.
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