Comparison Between Twelfth Night and the Rivals

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Compare Twelfth Night with The Rivals, both of them are comedies evolving around several couples. The two plays contain the device of disguise and mistaken identity. In Twelfth Night, Viola disguises herself as Cesario, which attracts Orsino and Olivia; while in The Rivals, Jack Absolute disguises himself as Ensign Beverley, who fascinates Lydia. Speaking of similarities, both the disguises lead to the characters’ affairs, and they are proved to be true love at the end of the plays. On the other hand, as for differences, in Twelfth Night, Viola disguises herself as a man, and that results in her complex situation, a love triangle. Instead, in The Rivals, Jack takes the disguise as an ensign, which does not alter his real gender as a man; therefore, his situation is purer, that is, earning Lydia’s heart only and not drawing other admirer. Both the plays mention the communication of mails. In Twelfth Night, Maria writes letters to Malvolio, which purports to be from Olivia. The function of letters in this play is to trick Malvolio, who is such a fool that believes the countess Olivia, a woman of a higher rank than his, would fall in love with him. In The Rivals, the function of letters is simpler, that is, Jack writes to Lydia to court her under the mistaken identity of a poor Ensign in order to win her affection or some other sentiment. In The Rivals, Jack Absolute’s line “Pho! man, is not music the food of love?” is an allusion to Twelfth Night. In the beginning of Twelfth Night, Orsino says “If music be the food of love, play on……” Nevertheless, these two characters utter such statement in very different situations. Orsino, at that time, is melancholic and insanely in love, by contrast, Jack says his line when his friend, Faulkland, is getting crazy since his lover’s merriment during his absence irritates him. Thus Jack plays the role of a calm, reasonable, and comforting friend. Compare the situations the two...
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