Twelfth Night Essays Viola

Viola's Disguise in Twelfth Night

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      As in most comedies, William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night extensively

uses disguises, masks and mistaken identities to add to the comical nature of

the play. Viola's disguise as Orsino's page, Cesario, becomes crucial to the

action in the play. Without this important element, the action in the play would

slow down dramatically, making the story much less intriguing. In addition to

making the play less interesting, the disguise is also necessary to develop the

storyline involving Sebastian, and the confusion that his return creates. It

also is vital to the conflict between Olivia and Orsino, which depends on

Viola's disguise to keep things exciting.

      Viola's disguise becomes increasing more important as the events take

place. The majority of the plot lines depend on the disguise. Without it, the

main theme of the play would be the gulling of Malvolio. In a play where most of

the characters fall in love with each other, blind to the gender and true

identity of the objects of their desires, a disguise like Viola's becomes the

center of the action, and causes almost all the of the important aspects of the


      The confusion that Sebastian creates when he returns would not occur

without Viola's disguise. Sir Andrew believes that the woman of his desires,

Olivia, is spending too much time with Cesario, and challenges him to a duel. As

he put it, Olivia was doing "more favors to the Count's servingman than ever she

bestowed upon me." (3-2 l.5-7) At first, Viola is nearly forced into a battle,

but is saved when the confused Antonio arrives. Later on, Sebastian and Andrew

do get involved in a scuffle, for which Viola is unjustly blamed. Finally

Sebastian and Viola are reunited, but only after they have already caused a

large amount of chaos and have confused everyone. It is only then that everyone

begins to discover the extent of Viola's trickery.

      More disorder is created when Olivia, who Orsino is hopelessly in love

with, falls for Cesario, who is secretly in love with Orsino. Orsino sends

Cesario to express his affection for Olivia, which Cesario/Viola is not thrilled

with. As she puts it, "whoe'er I woo, myself would be his wife." (1-4 l.

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This also causes Olivia to become interested in Cesario. Throughout the play,

Viola must continue to reject Olivia's advances while concealing her true

identity. However when Sebastian arrives. her plan begins to fall apart. Olivia

admits to loving her, which makes Orsino angry. However when all of the truth

has been told, Orsino realizes what has happened and agrees to marry Viola, with

Olivia marrying Sebastian, the next best thing to Cesario.

      Viola's disguise, and the resulting chaos, are the most

important elements of the plot of the play, and are crucial to the development

of the plot. Without it, there would be little excitement or intrigue, and

Shakespeare would not be able to thoroughly reflect his views of humanity.

The role and character of Viola in the play, “Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare

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Every film, concert and play needs characters to act out the themes and ideas of the scriptwriter, such as in the play “Twelfth Night”, written by William Shakespeare. There are many characters in the play “Twelfth Night” including Olivia, the Duke, Sebastian and Viola. Each character has his or her own personality traits, distinguishing qualities and purpose in the play. Viola, who is the main character, represents the two themes of love and disguise or mistaken identity in “Twelfth Night”.

Viola is a princess, who is shipwrecked on the island of Illyria and fears that she has lost her brother to the sea. Viola has many qualities, her brother, Sebastian, describes her as clever and talented, when he says, “She bore a mind that envy could not but call fair” Line twenty-one Scene One Act two. One will also notice that Viola is resourceful and courageous in Line fifty-four Scene two Act one, when she says “for such disguise as haply shall become”, this is the point in the play when Viola decides to disguise herself as a young man.

Viola introduces the theme of disguise and mistaken identity by disguising herself as a young man, named Cesario. Viola, as Cesario, plays the role of a servant, messenger and friend to the Duke of Illyria. The Duke says to Viola, “I have unclasped to thee/my secret soul” Line eleven to twelve Scene four Act one, expressing that he already trusts her and considers her a friend. Viola’s pretence is the source of much dramatic irony, which, in turn, creates much humour in the play.

Viola, disguised as Cesario, is assigned to the task of courting Olivia on behalf of the Duke, as one notices when Viola says, “I’ll do my best to woo your lady” Line thirty eight to thirty-nine Scene four Act one. Viola also plays a role in the theme of love. Viola then quietly says to the audience, “myself would be his wife”, stating that she is in fact in love with the Duke. A love triangle is created when Viola’s personality causes Olivia to fall in love with Viola herself, instead of the Duke. Olivia says to Viola in Line one hundred and thirty-three Scene one Act three, “I love thee”, showing that she loves Viola.

Viola’s role in the play, along with her pretence, cause a large amount confusion when her and her twin brother, Sebastian, are mistaken for one another by numerous other characters in the play. Olivia, who mistakes Sebastian for Viola, asks Sebastian if he would marry her and he obliges. Sebastian also promises to stay with her and not to return to the Duke. In Line ninety Scene one Act five, Olivia says to Viola, “you do not keep promise with me”, Olivia does not realise that she has actually married Sebastian and that Viola has not promised her anything.

Another example of the confusion created is when Sir Andrew challenges Viola to a duel and Antonio, thinking that Viola is Sebastian, steps in to save her. The confusion caused by the arrival of Sebastian creates a good deal of humour. I find that Viola plays the most important role in the play and has the most diverse character. She also has an effect on all of the other characters in the play. Teacher’s comment: It is a pity you did not elaborate on the effect she has on you.

Author: Brandon Johnson

in Twelfth Night

The role and character of Viola in the play, “Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare

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