Shakespeare/Twelfth Night term paper 12658

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In Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night", it is obvious that the oscillation

of attitude, in the dual role played by the character of Viola/Cesario, gives

her a better understanding of both sexes. It allows her to encompass a better

discernment of the sentiments of the Duke, Orsino. Near the onset of the play,

when Viola is assuming her male identity, she fashions an alternate self, giving

her two masks. She takes on the "Cesario" identity in order to achieve

more freedom in society. This is evident when, as Cesario, Orsino readily

accepts her; while, as Viola, he may not have. Thus, the customary societal

outlook on gender is portrayed. She now has the difficult task of deciding which

mask to wear as she alternates between her two identities, both in emotion and

in character. Orsino sees Cesario much like himself as a youth. For that reason,

he has a tendency to be more willing to share his troubles and sorrows with

him/her. To Orsino, Cesario is somewhat of a companion with whom to share and to

teach. Thus, Viola grows in her male disguise to gain a better understanding of

Orsino's inner self, not the self that he shows to the public, but rather his

undisclosed self, shared only with an intimate cohort. In the course, however,

she grows to love him, while he seems to be in love with "love

itself." His entire world is overflowing with love, but he foresees a

potential turning point; apparent when he says, "If music be the food of

love, play on; give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, the appetite may sicken,

and so die.” From this quote, the reader perceives Orsino's realization that

he is caught up in "love", as well as his desire for this hunger of

love to somehow diminish. A variety of “fools” enhance the comical appeal of

this play. Maria, Olivia's companion, is one such "fool.” She is

enthusiastic in playing pranks on others. She employs Feste, Sir Andrew, and Sir

Toby to carry out her tomfoolery, while she remains quiet and unsuspected. Much

of the humor in this play revolves around Maria's pranks. They are bleak and

vindictive, using love and power (status of Olivia) to seize Malvolio, who is

".... sick of self Love." In this particular prank, Maria forges

Olivia’s handwriting in a letter convincing Malvolio that Olivia is in love

with him. This scheme works entirely. Malvolio's greed for power is the actual

basis for his being locked up and accused of being a "madman.” Maria and

her collaborators recognize his desire for power, and consequently act upon it.

Sir Toby Belch, Olivia’s uncle as well as another "fool" in this

play, is always ready and willing to assist in any game of make-believe. He

constantly attempts to convince Sir Andrew Aguecheek that he has a chance of

winning the love of Olivia. He, at one point, sets up an altercation between

Cesario and Sir Andrew, convincing both parties that the other desires this. He,

as well as his friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek, seems to take to drinking a bit too

much for their own good. Their evening of joyous drunken singing can actually be

blamed for the fake-letter proposal. Malvolio, quite rudely, attempts to end

their joyous celebration stating, "My masters, are you mad? Or what are

you? Have you no wit, manners, nor honesty, but to gabble like tinkers at this

time of night?” This killjoy speech induces its recipients to swear revenge

upon him. Feste, the clown, plays the role of the "comic truth speaker.”

Although he makes no real philosophical remarks in the play, he seems to be

wisest among the bunch. Viola interprets this by saying, "This fellow's

wise enough to play the fool." Since this somehow licenses him to be a

fool, Feste takes to speaking the truth on all matters. Much humor lies in his

truthfulness. An example of this is when he proves Olivia to be a true

"fool" by asking her what she was mourning about. The point Feste

makes is that Olivia is a "fool" to mourn for a person whose soul is

in heaven. Adding to the wit of this play, Feste dresses up as Sir Topaz, the

curate, and pays a visit to the imprisoned Malvolio. There, he uses his wit to

exploit Malvolio, calling him a "lunatic" and "satan." All

the while, Malvolio is completely unaware of who he is actually talking to.

Comical is the fact that Olivia, unknowingly, falls in love with another woman.

There is such a mix-up of identities in this play, that the reader is never

bored or desirous of excitement. Olivia is in love with Viola, while Viola

declares her love for Orsino time and again. When Orsino first sends Cesario

(Viola) to act as a messenger of his love for Olivia, Viola says, “ I’ll do

my best to woo your lady; [aside] yet, a barful strife! Whoe'er I woo, myself

would be his wife.” Near the end of the play, when all tricks and treacheries

are exposed and masks removed, Orsino transfers his copious love to Viola. He

first relieves her from duty to him, and then declares that she shall now be her

“master's mistress.” Olivia, analogously, winds up inadvertently marrying

Viola’s twin brother Sebastian. In short, the “fools” control the comedy

and humor in this play. They lend a hand in the make believe games, and fool

around with the characters who dodge reality, or rather apprehend a fantasy

world. The roles of Feste, Maria, and Sir Toby are those of “fools,” and

they make the comedy work in many aspects. They create confusion through humor,

and it all works out in the end, making William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night a

genuinely humorous play.

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