Outer Identity Doesn’t Always Match Inner Perception in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

Outer Identity Doesn’t Always Match Inner Perception in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

Length: 732 words (2.1 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview


People are not always whom they appear to be. Whether it’s that fierce tattooed muscle man or that sweet elderly lady smiling from a few seats away, what is perceived is not always what is true. Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night portrays many a character whose identities do not align with their inner character. Olivia’s polite ladylike demeanour, Sir Toby’s guise of nobility, and Feste’s job as a fool all demonstrate how social identities don’t always align with inner character.

Olivia’s public status shows her as a caring and high-class lady, a persona with a stark contrast to her inner self as a bold and tenacious woman. When Olivia pines for Cesario, she takes action and confesses, “But, would you undertake another suit, / I had rather hear you to solicit that/ Than music from the spheres” (3.1.108-110). This confession shows Olivia’s yearning for Cesario to woo her, revealing a bold inner character and desire that doesn’t align with how others perceive her. Another example is after Cesario denies having married her and redirects the topic back to Duke Orsino, Olivia replies, “If it be aught to the old tune, my lord/ It is as fat and fulsome to mine ear/ As howling after music” (5.1.104-106). Olivia dismisses the Duke’s affections and rebukes him as a man would, saying his courting is gross and disgusting. This shows she is not the fragile and polite woman one may perceive her to be, but an abrasive woman who can speak her mind. Olivia breaks out of her social identity as a frail, polite, and proper Elizabethan lady and reveals her true inner character as a strong and empowered woman.

Olivia’s own cousin, Sir Toby, also has a secret side that doesn’t align with his social identity. Sir Toby is supposed to be a honourable high...


... middle of paper ...


...alvolio by slipping seamlessly into Sir Toby’s ploy. All of this reveals Feste’s inward character as wise and witty, as opposed to his social repute as an uneducated lower-class fool.

Olivia, Sir Toby, and Feste are all are vastly different from the way others view them. Their social identities put up guises and put expectations on them to act a certain way. This reflects back to real life where people’s social identities can alter the way others view and treat them, taking away peoples’ personal leeway for self expression in fear of a negative response from their peers. That heavily tattooed man could just be a kind aspiring kindergarten teacher while that sweet old lady could be a subway pickpocket. Shakespeare shows in Twelfth Night that social identity does not always align with inner character; an underlying theme that shines through to our society today.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

True Love in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night Essay

- True Love in Twelfth Night        Unlike the other characters in Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night", Viola's feelings of love are genuine. She is not mistaken about Orsino's true nature and loves him for who he really is, while the other characters in the play seem to be in love with an illusion. Viola's love for Orsino does not alter during the play, nor is it transferred to another person.   Viola, alone in a strange land, disguises herself as a man in order to gain access to Duke Orsino's palace....   [tags: Shakespeare Twelfth Night Essays]

Better Essays
1979 words (5.7 pages)

Comparing Mistaken Identity in Merchant of Venice, Comedy Errors, Twelfth Night and As You Like It

- Mistaken Identity in Merchant of Venice, Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night and As You Like It   The ploy of mistaken identity as a plot device in writing comedies dates back at least to the times of the Greeks and Romans in the writings of Menander and Plautus. Shakespeare borrowed the device they introduced and developed it into a fine art as a means of expressing theme as well as furthering comic relief in his works. Shakespeare's artistic development is clearly shown in the four comedies The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, and Measure for Measure where he manages to take the germinal idea of mistaken identity and expand it to peaks its originators never fathomed....   [tags: comparison compare contrast essays]

Better Essays
1103 words (3.2 pages)

Analyzing Themes in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night Essay

- William Shakespeare, an English writer in the seventeenth century. He is considered to be the most influential writer in English literature. He wrote various genres, but the common types he wrote were: Tragedies, Comedies, and Histories. Among the many plays he wrote he wrote one his most famous play, “Twelfth Night”, which he wrote during the middle of his career. “Twelfth Night” is considered to be one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies that he has written. In addition to it is also the only play that he wrote that has an alternate title which is called, “Twelfth Night, or What You Will”....   [tags: Twelfth Night]

Better Essays
1477 words (4.2 pages)

The Purpose of Disguise in Twelfth Night Essay

- Theme of Disguise in Twelfth Night The notion of disguise is very important theme within Twelfth Night.  From my point of view I feel that the crux of the play is primarily based on this concept.  Indeed "there's something in it that is deceivable" summarizes this point precisely.  Disguise runs like a thread through the play from start to end and holds it all together just as tightly as thread would fabric.  Yet, paradoxically as the plot progresses there are many problems, deceptions and illusions, which provide a comment on human behavior and creating the needed escape of comedy....   [tags: Twelfth Night essays]

Better Essays
1145 words (3.3 pages)

Use of Disguise in Twelfth Night Essay

- Twelfth Night, "there's something in it that is deceivable". Disguise is very important as a theme in the Twelfth Night.  In fact, disguise is a crucial plot to the play.  It is the thread which runs through the play from start to end and holds it all together.  Yet, paradoxically along the way there are many problems, deceptions and illusions, providing a comment on human behavior and creating comedy. Women's parts were played by boy actors in Shakespeare's day, so the audience would have found special sophistication in Viola's part:  a boy dressing up as a woman who, in the play disguises herself as a man....   [tags: Twelfth Night Essays]

Better Essays
1063 words (3 pages)

Essay on Irony in Twelfth Night

-       Realizing that her disguise has produced unexpected results, Viola makes an allusion to the Gordon knot in order to describe the perceived difficulty of extricating herself from the confusion. Viola, in the act of reinterpreting herself as a man for the main purpose of protection, has found herself the body from which other characters can derive their own interpretations.               As I am man,             My state is desperate for my master's love:             As I am woman (now alas the day!)             What thriftless sighs shall poor Olivia breathe....   [tags: Twelfth Night essays]

Better Essays
1847 words (5.3 pages)

Gender Roles in Twelfth Night Essay

- Born on approximately April 23, 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, William Shakespeare is considered by many to have been the greatest writer the English language has ever known. His literary legacy included 37 plays, 154 sonnets, and five major poems. Among his many plays is the notable, Twelfth Night, a romantic comedy, placed in a festive atmosphere in which three couples are brought together happily. The play opens with Orsino, the Duke of Illyria, expressing his deep love for the Countess Olivia....   [tags: William Shakespeare Twelfth Night]

Better Essays
2141 words (6.1 pages)

Viola's Disguise in Twelfth Night Essay

-       As in most comedies, William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night extensively uses disguises, masks and mistaken identities to add to the comical nature of the play. Viola's disguise as Orsino's page, Cesario, becomes crucial to the action in the play. Without this important element, the action in the play would slow down dramatically, making the story much less intriguing. In addition to making the play less interesting, the disguise is also necessary to develop the storyline involving Sebastian, and the confusion that his return creates....   [tags: Twelfth Night essays]

Free Essays
487 words (1.4 pages)

The Character of Sebastian in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night: Essay

- The Character of Sebastian in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night:       Sebastian's presence in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night: or What You Will is a vexation. More pointedly, it is his sudden marriage to Olivia which troubles me so. Was he written in to give a parallel storyline between Olivia and Viola. Was he a convenient way to have a double wedding, which Shakespeare seemed to prefer for his happy endings. Or, could there be some other meaning to Sebastian.   The last day of the Christmas season is January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, when Christ was revealed to the world in the personage of the Magi....   [tags: Twelfth Night essays]

Better Essays
825 words (2.4 pages)

Twelfth Night Essay: Exploration of Love

- Exploration of Love in Twelfth Night       In the play "Twelfth Night," Shakespeare explores and illustrates the emotion of love with precise detail. According to "Webster's New World Dictionary," love is defined as "a strong affection or liking for someone." Throughout the play Shakespeare examines three different types of love: true love, self love and friendship.      "Twelfth Night" consists of many love triangles, however many of the characters who are tangled up in the web of love are blind to see that their emotions and feelings toward other characters are untrue....   [tags: Twelfth Night essays]

Free Essays
854 words (2.4 pages)