"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 uncertainty is presented in all characters around different situations that arise - Viola's premature uncertainty of her brother's whereabouts, uncertainty of gender, Count Orsino and his uncertainty of love, Malvolio's uncertainty of Olivia's 'love' for him - to name a few. The Oxford dictionary claims deception is the act of decieving someone. In Twelfth Night, trickery and disguise are factors that are interlaced with how people are decieved in the play; The most conspicuous act of deception in the play being Viola being disguised as a male. Most of the characters in Twelfth Night are in a state of identity confusion. Thematically, Shakespeare sets up the plays to actions to reinforce that identity will always be fragmentary and incomplete until one is able to love, regardless of whether one is loved in return. One level of identity confusion in Twelfth Night is gender identity. Viola embodies this confusion when she adopts the identity of a boy, Cesario. In Shakespeare's time, all female roles were played by boys, so in this case a boy actor plays a woman character (Viola) who plays a boy (Cesario). Disguise is a hugely important theme within the play, both literally and metaphorically, and Viola's intention to disguise herself as a man quickly introduces the idea.
Viola: Disguise, I see thou art a wickedness...
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? The most conspicuous act of deception and confusion in the play is disguise. Many characters in Twelfth Night assume disguises, beginning with Viola, who puts on male attire. By dressing his protagonist in male garments, Shakespeare creates endless sexual confusion with the Olivia-Viola--Orsino love triangle. Other characters in disguise include Malvolio, who puts on crossed garters and yellow stockings in the hope of winning Olivia, and Feste, who dresses up as a priest—Sir Topas—when he speaks to Malvolio after the steward has been locked in a dark room. Feste puts on the disguise even though Malvolio will not be able to see him, since the room is so dark, suggesting that the importance of clothing is not just in the eye of the beholder. For Feste, the disguise completes his assumption of a new identity—in order to be Sir Topas, he must look like Sir Topas. Viola puts on new clothes and changes her gender, while Feste and Malvolio put on new garments either to impersonate a nobleman (Feste) or in the hopes of becoming a nobleman (Malvolio). Through these disguises, the play raises questions about what makes us who we are, compelling the audience to wonder if things like gender and class are set in stone, or if they can be altered with a change of clothing. With the use of dramatic irony, Shakespeare incorporates the audience into the play by allowing them to know the hidden truth. The result of dramatic irony is that of a comforting effect and interest on the part of the audience because they "enjoy being in on the secret ". The audience feels like a part of the story, i.e. they feel they have something in common with the characters. Also it makes the audience feel privileged and even superior to the characters when they understand the hidden meanings of the words and actions of the characters at the time the characters are oblivious. Therefore, the behaviour of the characters becomes ironic because they