Shakespeare's Twelfth Night examines patterns of love and courtship through a twisting of gender roles. In Act 3, scene 1, Olivia displays the confusion created for both characters and audience as she takes on the traditionally male role of wooer in an attempt to win the disguised Viola, or Cesario. Olivia praises Cesario's beauty and then addresses him with the belief that his "scorn" (3.1.134) only reveals his hidden love. However, Olivia's mistaken interpretation of Cesario's manner is only the surface problem presented by her speech. The reality of Cesario's gender, the active role Olivia takes in pursuing him/her, and the duality of word meanings in this passage threaten to turn the traditional patriarchal concept of courtship upside down, or as Olivia says turn "night to noon" (139). Perhaps the biggest upset to the traditional structure is the possibility that Olivia may be in love with a woman. Shakespeare allows his audience to excuse this by having Olivia be unaware that Cesario is actually female. Yet, Olivia's attraction seems to stem exactly from the more feminine characteristics like Cesario's "beautiful scorn" and "angry lip" (136-137). Olivia's words allow an audience, particularly a modern one, to perhaps read her as suspecting or even knowing that Cesario is female, yet choosing to love him/her anyway. Olivia's description of Cesario's beauty, both here and upon their first encounter, praises typically feminine qualities, but curiously doesn't question Cesario's gender. The comparison of love to guilt tempts the readers mind to wonder if Olivia is guilty about her love for such female attributes. Olivia's oath on maidenhood also tempts the reader toward a lesbian reading by hinting that Cesario would also understand maidenhood (141). When Olivia declares that not even "wit nor reason"(143) can hide her passion, she suggests that she would love Cesario even if it were against logic, as a same sex couple would be. Despite the unacceptability of a same sex romance in Shakespeare's time, the hints toward this reading seem visible enough to have been thought of then as well as today. Although probably not intended to the extent of a lesbian courtship, the situation of a woman wooing another woman presents a comical picture for the audience, perhaps even more so in the Elizabethan era with two male actors wooing each other as women. Shakespeare is able to pose the question of homosexual love by using "Cesario" as a shield to protect both the characters within the play and the audience from having to deal with the question directly. Although he avoids denying the Elizabethan romantic conventions with an openly homosexual plot, Shakespeare does upset the norm by having Olivia act as suitor and having the "man" act as the object of desire. This role reversal is not hidden since Olivia plainly says "I woo"(145) as she addresses Cesario. The way in which she speaks to Cesario mimics the contemporary traditions perfectly. Cesario's refusal sets up the classic situation of the beloved as an object of unattainable perfection for the lover to praise. Olivia's speech is in rhymed couplets separating it, along with Viola's response, from the typical blank verse of the rest of the play as if they were intended to be poems standing on their own. Olivia swears by "everything" (141) that her passion cannot be restrained even by reason while simultaneously admiring Cesario's resistance (143). She follows the patriarchal formula perfectly, the only exception being her gender. Olivia's absurd situation of wooing a disguised woman makes her doomed to fail despite her ability to replicate the correct discourse. On the contrary, perhaps Shakespeare's intention is to show that it is the very discourse which causes the failure. The foolishness of the scene; a male actor playing a woman, wooing another man playing a woman, who is playing a man, appears to poke fun at the entire convention. By swearing on "everything" Olivia…
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The play opens at the Illyrian court, where the love-sick Duck Orsino enjoyed some live tunes while fantasizing about the luscious countess Olivia. Too bad Olivia can’t be bothered with the duck or any other living man. Valentine reports that Olivia’s brother has recently died, so Olivia’s decided to lock herself up at home while she mourns for the next seven years. Olivia’s grief over her dead bro doesn’t bother Orsino one bit. In fact,…
Twelfth Night Essay
By: Sarah Bricker
Love is usually seen as the cause of happiness, but love may also be the cause of suffering. In
this play there are many different kinds of love. Love between friends, lovers, and family
members. There are examples of suffering in Viola and her brother Sebastian relationship,
Orsino and Viola/Cesario’s relationship and Maria and Sir Toby’s relationship.
Viola and Sebastian show that love is a cause of suffering though their love represented…
Twelfth night by Shakespeare is a play about two siblings who were separated in a
shipwreck. As the play focuses on the drama of a Countess, who falls in love with one of the
siblings in what we can view as a one sided love triangle. Jon Tracy’s rendition of the play,
which was performed at the Shotgun Players Theater in Berkeley, certainly used the venue to
his advantage. As the play progresses on, it expanded into a musical which interprets the
message of the play. The actors and performers of the play leaves the audience awe and…
Use of disguise in Twelfth night
Disguise is presented as a brutal practice. It leaves the one who is in disguise in a complicated state. There are different forms of disguises; some are used for attracting someone while others are used for mislead. In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, disguise is an important component of the play. As the play continues Viola’s disguise creates more controversy. Viola disguises herself as a male to protect herself in an unfamiliar land. Viola’s disguise…
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…
William Shakespeare’s play ‘Twelfth Night’, is an insightful and entertaining play, which employs the use of comedy to both captivate and engage its audience. Shakespeare ingeniously explores a rich variety of themes throughout the play, which are approved with the use of both dramatic and language techniques. The use of comedy throughout the play encourages audiences that it is an entertaining and thought-provoking piece of work. A play to me is entertaining when it shows a great…
To what extent does ‘Twelfth Night’ offer an interpretation of human folly and greed?
Throughout ‘Twelfth Night’, Shakespeare demonstrates both folly and greed through the characters in the play. Greed is a theme which has an impact on the characters in different ways and primarily centres around a need and desire or either love and consumption. Within the subplot, human folly is heavily interlinked with excessive behaviours as Feste, Sir Toby, and Maria in particular feel the need to gull others…
Twelfth Night course work- Katelan Heald
conventional task 2- how does shakespear present key elements of comedy through confusion and deception?
Humor is added in twelfth night as adolescent boys play the roles of female characters this added greater dymention to disguise. 'comedy in Elizabethan usage is different to modern day comedy. A shakespearn comedy has a happy ending usually involing unmarried characters. shakespearean comedys also nomally include deception among characters-mistaken identity…
"Confusion and deception are key elements of Comedy." How does Shakespeare present these ideas in Twelfth Night?
There are many contributary themes that make a Shakesperian play. In Twelfth Night, confusion and deception are the most prominent and fundamental concepts, they intertwine with almost every character and are concepts that are evident in all accounts. According to the Oxford dictionary, confusion is uncertainty about what is happening, intended, or required and that…