The Twelfth Night seems to comply with the typical definition of a “happy ending,” where the status-quo of true love is met when Viola and Duke Orsino find love in each other. However, the question arises as to which Viola the Duke Orsino has truly fallen in love with? Up until this ending scene, 5.1, Orsino confesses his love for Viola, who at the time is disguised as his male comrade, Cesario. Hearing this, Viola reveals to Orsino that she is in actuality a woman and loves him in return. Orsino seems gladdened with this news, but continues to call Viola “boy” throughout the rest of the finale. Viola’s grand reveal comes at a convenient for Orsino, who just confessed his love for Cesario, his male friend. There are hints of homosexuality between Orsino and Cesario, which are quickly dismissed. The audience, though, lingers on the fact that in this last scene, Orsino confesses his deep love for Cesario before Viola reveals her true identity.
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Shakespeare reveals his mastery of literature and his power of influence by referencing homosexuality and the disregard for societal justice, as seen with Malvolio, without penalty. The play itself can almost be seen as a way for Shakespeare to hide in plain sight as he points a finger at society’s shortcomings in accepting same-sex love and it’s disregard for human compassion without qualm. Shakespeare is well known for blending comedy and drama together, which is why it is so easy for him in The Twelfth Night to make commentary on gender roles and homosexuality without being criticized for his ambiguous references. It is likely that his audience would take a scene such as this in a light-hearted manner. The Twelfth Night’s final act represents Shakespeare’s talent to create an ending that shakes his audience’s ideals without them even knowing it fully.
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