Twelfth Night

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How does Shakespeare present the theme of deception in the first two acts of Twelfth night?

Shakespeare's Twelfth night, focuses mainly on the theme of deception in both main plot and the sub-plot. Not only do the characters deceive each other, but many of them are also self-deceived and we, as the audience, begin to realise ourselves that we are sometimes deceived. This creates great opportunities for Shakespeare to create humour and dramatic irony, which a Shakespearian audience would understand. Deception also links in with the other key themes of love and disguise. When Shakespeare first introduces Viola, we realise from the main plot that she is the main part of deception. We learn that she is a strong and resourceful character in her situation. We learn that she has lost her brother in a shipwreck and doesn't no if he is dead or alive. A woman would be very vulnerable, at the time the play was written in strange foreign country all alone, so for protection she decides to dress up as a man. We find out that she will call herself Cesario and try to find work, with the duke Orsino. When she states this intention we know that confusion and humour will be involved in the plot of the play. Viola will be deceiving everyone into thinking she's a man but unlike all of the other characters she is not self-deceived. Shakespeare creates a great ironic twist with Violas situation. In act 1 scene 4 when Viola has successfully taken on the role of Cesario, we see Orsino has grown very close to him/her, and sees him as a good friend after only knowing him a couple of days, ‘if the duke continues these favours towards you, Cesario, you are like to be much advanced'. The audience can tell that Viola has done very well in deceiving Orsino into thinking into thinking she is a man, and has already made an excellent impression. Orsino is so impressed by Cesario that he has revealed everything about his love for Olivia, ‘Thou know'st no less but all; I have unclasped to thee book even of my secret soul'. The audience now see dramatic irony brought into the plot Orsino demands that Cesario should deliver a message to Olivia to tell her of his love for her. The dramatic irony is shown through the way Cesario (viola) herself has fallen in love with Orsino and can do absolutely nothing about it because she is disguised as a man. Cesario would rather be the one he was in love with, ‘yet a barful strife! Whoe'er I was myself be his wife'. This would originally create humour with the confusion of the situation making problems for the characters. However the audience begins to realise that it is a more serious situation for Viola. This becomes clear later on in the play when she utters ‘disguise I see thou art a wickedness'. When Cesario is speaking with Orsino he compares her so much to a women, ‘Diana's lip is not more smooth and rubious' and ‘all is semblative to a woman's part. That creates more humour and irony but also an extremely difficult situation for Cesario. In the opening of act 1 scene 5 Viola is again shown as a determined character, ‘he'll stand at your door like sheriffs post' declares Malvolio to Olivia describing Viola. When Olivia is first told that there is a messenger from Orsino wanting to speak with her she makes up excuses, ‘I am sick or not at home'. This shows she has probably had many messengers from Orsino and doesn't wish to speak with them anymore. Olivia has sadly lost her brother and has announced that she is going to ‘abjure the company of men' for seven years. This is very extreme behaviour and we begin to discover that she is self-deceiving herself in the way that she feels she must mourn for her brother. That her behaviour is highly unnatural is suggested in a number of ways. Firstly Shakespeare has given us, in Viola, a character in a similar situation to Olivia but she has taken a very different approach to the situation. Secondly Sir Toby and Feste draw attention to how absurd...
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