Twelfth Night is likely one of Shakespeare’s most entertaining and complete comedy. This romance explores a generous wealth of themes and issues. The most recurrent theme is the relationship between misperception and deception. As a result of their environment and immediate circumstances, men are forced into misperceptions. Paradoxically, they are completely trapped by these illusions. Between the bad fortune they encounter and the bad fortune they themselves generate, they become caught between a rock and a hard place; they are victims of deceit as well as their own folly.
The relationship between misperception and deception has numerous effects: it gives way to ironic humor; it is used to explore characters and relationships; it develops a strong connection between the main plot (with Viola, Orsino, Olivia, and the others) and the sub-plot (involving Sir Andrew, Sir Toby, Malvolio, and Maria). The following piece from Twelfth Night proves how Shakespeare successfully communicates these elements. The scene involving Viola and Olivia outlines this; the essence of the play.
('I prithee, tell me what thoust think'st of me.')
'That you do not think you are not what you are.'
'If I think so, I think the same of you.'
'Then think you right: I am not what I am.'
Through the course of the play much confusion occurs because of misperception and deception as the following brief outline of the plot shows. Towards the end of the play, Viola is blamed for a number of things. She is charged ...
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...ne own self be true.'
Works Cited and Consulted:
Bloom, Harold, ed. William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.
Grief, Karen. "Plays and Playing in Twelfth Night". Bloom (47-60).
Nevo, Ruth. Comic Transformations in Shakespeare. London: Methuen & Co., 1980.
Osborne, Laurie E. The Trick of Singularity: Twelfth Night and the Performance Editions. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 1996.
Shakespeare, William. The Arden Edition of the Works of William Shakespeare: Twelfth Night. Ed. J. M. Lothian and T.W. Craik. UK: Methuen & Co., 1975.
Thatcher, David. Begging to Differ: Modes of Discrepancy in Shakespeare. New York: Peter Lang, 1999.
Vickers, Brian. Appropriating Shakespeare: Contemporary Critical Quarrels. New Haven: Yale U P, 1993
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