04 June 2015 The Importance of Disguise in Twelfth Night
Disguise is undeniably one of man’s greatest weakness as well as strengths. It deceives and corrupts the mind, while it is also used by some to control others, in either a good or a bad way. In William Shakespeare’s brilliantly written play, Twelfth Night, disguise is effectively used to benefit some characters, such as Feste, while being used to detriment others, like Malvolio. In Twelfth Night, disguise becomes a powerful device, because it causes conflicts between characters and themselves, and it adds humour, which overall gives the whole play a better experience when read.
Disguise becomes a powerful device in the play Twelfth Night mostly because of the fact that it causes conflicts between different characters and even themselves. First, disguise causes external conflicts between the some of the main characters, such as the love triangle between Olivia, Orsino, and Viola. This is revealed in Viola’s soliloquy, “My master loves her dearly; And I, poor monster, fond as much on him; And she, mistaken, seems to dote on me. What will become of this?’’ (Act2, Scene 2, Line 32-35). Here, Viola calls herself a monster, because she is truly a woman who appears to be a man. This disguise causes a love triangle to form between the three main characters (Viola, Duke Orsino and Olivia. It also causes conflicts between other characters, such as Viola, Sebastian, Orsino, Olivia, Antonio, and Sir Andrew, which adds humour, tension and suspense to the story. Ultimately, disguise drives the plot to progress and the characters to develop further. Secondly, Disguise becomes a powerful device because it causes internal conflicts, which overall help the plot develop and at the same time add complexity. This is demonstrated when Viola says, “Conceal me what I am, and be my aid For such disguise as haply shall become The form of my intent. I’ll serve this duke. Thou shall present me as an eunuch to him.” (Act 1, Scene 2, Line 53-56). Viola reveals that she will disguise herself as a man, and present herself to the duke. Later she will fall in love with Orsino, but will not be able to reveal her feelings because of her external disguise, and she will have to woo another lady for Orsino. Viola realises that her internal conflict was a result of her disguise. Internal conflicts like this help the plot develop and make the play interesting. To conclude, disguise becomes a powerful device in Twelfth Night because it causes internal and external conflicts. Moving on now, disguise no doubt becomes a powerful device in Twelfth Night because it indubitable adds humour to the play. First, disguise adds hilarity to the play by adding dramatic irony to the story. This is revealed when Malvolio says, “By my life, this is my lady’s hand: these be her very C’s, her U’s and her T’s and thus makes she her great P’s. It is, in contempt of question, her hand.” (Act 2, Scene 5, Line 80-84). In this part of the play, Maria brilliantly disguises her handwriting to look like Olivia’s, to make a fool of Malvolio. The plan successfully works, and in the end Malvolio does make a fool of himself, as he is convinced Olivia wants him to be cross-gartered and wear yellow stockings, which are the two things Olivia abhors. Since the readers know more about the situation than the character, Malvolio’s actions look like as if he is a ‘madman’. This ‘madness’ caused by disguise adds an amount of humor in the play. Second, Shakespeare creates humour in his play through internal disguise, especially when it comes to the character Feste. This is revealed