Twelfth Night Disguise

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Shakespeare utilizes disguise as the primary source of theatrical appeal in his play Twelfth Night. It is particularly common in Comedy, for various reasons. With disguise, you get confusion, mistaken identities, and with these, you get laughter. On the Elizabethan stage, playwrights frequently included disguise, or deception, in their comedies, using it as a comedic device. In Twelfth Night, it is the characters abilities to utilize disguises to deceive one another or themselves. This is evident by the numerous complications caused by Viola's physical disguise, as well as Orsino and Malvolio's self-deception.
Deception is a powerful device, but its use may have unintended and undesirable outcomes. The most palpable form of deception in the play would be when the character Viola decides to adopt the disguise of a man, Cesario, to be the servant of Duke Orsino. This has serious consequences for herself and the others around her. Why does Viola disguise herself as a man? The easy answer is that Shakespeare always uses people in disguise to complicate his plots (Peck and Coyle-93). This play was written during the Elizabethan period, where woman had more subservient roles. Viola explains that although her primary intention of hiding her femininity is to obtain employment, her guise creates many problems. Mainly being that she has fallen in love with the Duke Orsino, the irony is revealed as she is being sent by the man she loves to woo another woman, and the woman she is to woo for him has fallen in love with her disguise. This makes the audience wonder, how Shakespeare will resolve this issue, as we know the truth of Cesario where the characters do not. Having not much of a choice, Viola performs Orsino’s tasks, sighing 'yet a barful strife, whoe'er I woo, myself would be his wife'. She also realizes how her semblance has led to Olivia's otherwise improbably ardour for her when she says to herself 'methinks I feel this youth's perfections with an invisible and

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