Essay about Deception in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

Essay about Deception in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

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Deception in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night


In William Shakespeare's comedic play, Twelfth Night, a recurring theme is deception. The characters in the play used deception for a variety of purposes. Viola's use of deception involves her disguising herself as a man in order to obtain a job with the Duke of Illyria, Orsino. On the other hand, Maria, Olivia's servant, writes a letter to Malvolio in Olivia's handwriting to make Malvolio act foolishly because of his love for Olivia. While some use deception as a means of survival, others use deception to trick others and make them act foolishly.

The first example of deception in this play was when Viola decides to disguise herself as a man. Viola barely escapes a shipwreck along with her twin brother Sebastian. Separated in this terrible disaster each twin believes the other has died in the wreck. The captain of the shipwrecked vessel advises Viola to go and find a job with the Duke Orsino since she has no family or way to support herself. Viola must disguise herself as a man in order to get a job and survive. "For such disguise as haply shall become / The form of my intent. I'll serve this duke. / Thou shalt present me as an eunuch to him. / It may be worth thy pains, for I can sing, / And speak to him in many sorts of music / That will allow me very worth his service" (1.2 lines 50-55). Viola, under the name Cesario, receives the job with Orsino at his house. Viola as Cesario becomes a messenger for Orsino. Viola carries love letters to Orsino's love Olivia who wouldn't accept the letters until Viola brought them to her. Viola later realizes that Olivia is in love with her as Cesario and also that she herself is in love with Orsino and that Orsino is still...


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...to a young noblewoman, Viola, who transforms herself, through costume, voice and gesture, into a young man, Cesario" (Norton 1043). Shakespeare used deception throughout this writing and some others but also in reality through the performances of the plays.

Even from the beginning of time with Adam, Eve and the serpent, deception has been used. Everyone has tried to deceive someone in their lifetime whether it be through a Halloween costume or to make yourself appear better. Deception is used for a variety of reasons today just as in the play. Some people are forced to use deception as a necessity while others find humor and entertainment in it. Whatever the motive, deception will continue to be a recurring them in all mankind; one with which we can all identify.

Works Cited:

Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night. Penguin Books (New York), 1972.


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