The Theme of Secrecy in Twelfth Night

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Secrecy is an important element in any plot. It creates irony and sometimes situational comedy. The way in which a character keeps or reveals a secret affects the plot and adds to the main theme of the work. Viola, a character in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, must keep the secret of her true identity. The play uses secrecy as an important element of the plot by creating irony, situational comedy, and tension, as well as affecting the plot and contributing to the overall meaning of the play.

The plot of Twelfth Night is affect by the secret that Viola keeps and reveals. Viola is a lady of Messaline who has been shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria. Believing her brother Sebastian is dead, she wants to start a new life in Illyria, but the court of Lady Olivia is not accepting any new members because Lady Olivia is in mourning after her father and brother have died. In order to join the court of Duke Orsino, Viola must disguise herself as a boy named Cesario. Orsino accepts “Cesario” into his court and from that point on, secrecy is embedded within the plot. Secrecy is necessary because she cannot be revealed as a woman for several reasons. Viola becomes close with Orsino, which causes her to fall in love with him, but since she has become so close to him, Orsino trusts “her” and sends “Cesario” to Lady Olivia’s house to try to convince her to accept his love. Even though Olivia has sworn off love, as soon as she meets Cesario she falls for him because he knows all the charming things to say to her. Since Cesario is actually Viola, the swooning words she says to Olivia is what Viola would want to hear if a man were confessing his love to her. Cesario says to Olivia, “Make me a willow cabin at your gate/ And call upon my soul within the house,/ Write loyal cantons of contemned love,/ And sing them loud even in the dead of night// Hallow your name to the reverberate hills/ And make the babbling gossip of the air/ Cry out ‘Olivia!’ O, you should not rest/ Between the...
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