English Coursework - Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’
Concealment and disguise are the driving forces behind the dark comedy that is ‘Twelfth Night’. The character Viola decides to adopt the disguise of a man, which has serious consequences for herself and others around her.
The play was written during the Elizabethan period, a time when male actors played female parts in plays. When ‘Twelfth Night’ would have originally been presented, a male actor would have played the part of Viola and Cesario. This would have added an interesting and somewhat confusing layer to the play, but allowed comic situations to develop.
The main comic parts of the play are the direct or indirect consequences of Viola disguising herself as a man by the name of Cesario after she is shipwrecked and fears her brother Sebastian for dead. The immediate consequence for Viola is that she can work for Orsino, but she is later confronted by a problem she did not foresee - her falling in love with Orsino but being unable to openly express this due to her disguise. She unwittingly puts up a barrier between herself and the person she will come to desire most. She says in the play ‘myself would be his wife’, referring to Orsino, showing that she longs to be his wife, but she has cut herself off from this privilege. Another comic aspect, and problem for the characters, is Olivia falling in love with Cesario, unaware of ‘his’ disguise.
These situations lead to both physical and emotional problems for the character Viola/Cesario, as well problems mainly emotional for Orsino and Olivia. An example of Viola’s physical problems would be in Act 3 when she is expected to sword fight. In such times, there is no way a woman would have any knowledge of swordsmanship and therefore she as a problem because of her true physical weakness.
An example of Viola’s emotional torment is when in Act 2 she is in discussions with Orsino, and is becoming in...