In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Nigh, or What You Will, Shakespeare develops clear contrasts in characters to portray a sense of the right and wrong ways to go about ones life to his audience. Orsino is used as a character that is extreme in his emotions and therefore does not have any clear and genuine feelings especially regarding love. Shakespeare uses Olivia as a character who, like Orsino, goes overboard in her emotions that are very different from societal norms. He uses Viola as a set contrast and positive outlook on how to be in control of one’s life and how to path the way for one’s own destiny. Shakespeare uses his characters Orsino, Olivia, and Viola to portray what happens to one’s character when their identities are skewed or disguised.
Orsino and Olivia’s identities are both very skewed. Orsino is a crazily indecisive with whether or not he actually loves Olivia. This begs the audience to question whether or not he is actually in love with her or the idea of her. Shakespeare shows that an incredibly uncertain character where his emotions go from one extreme to the next is not a good quality to have. Shakespeare leads his audience to believe that his impulsive, lovesick, over boisterous, and dramatic Orsino is actually just a man running after the outward appearance of Olivia as well as being the center of attention. Likewise, Olivia is also a character that loves to be in the limelight; her drama queen tendencies after her brother’s passing show this cleary. Shakespeare wants his audience to realize that no one in the world would want a person to mourn for them like Olivia chooses to do. Both Orsino and Olivia have skewed identities because they are so lost in being drama queens that they forget about true and genuine emotions and normal societal norms for going about life’s endeavors.
Viola disguises her physical identity into a man merely to be able to work for Duke Orsino as a pageboy. Viola gets shipwrecked on Illyria and is totally alone with a missing brother and nothing to her name and, although she comes from and noble background like Orsino and Olivia, her first instinct is to try to find a way to fend for herself. Unlike Orsino and Olivia who are both incredibly irrational and unrealistic Shakespeare uses Viola as someone who resembles mentality and practicality. The audience develops a certain understanding and compassion for Viola that Shakespeare meaningfully makes sure they are not able to feel for Orsino and Olivia. Viola’s actions and emotions are the ones that seem most real and genuine. Shakespeare uses Viola and contrasts her to these polar opposite characters in order to show that, although one may be of a higher class, this does not mean that they do not have the ability to be independent and in charge.
I went to see the play The Importance of Being Earnest here at Loyola. Deceit and actually not being so earnest were two big themes that ran through the play. In order to marry the ones they fell in love with, the two male leads in the play disguised their true identities; one even impersonating the other. The play is humorous and complicated with a strange happy ending just like the play we read in class. Like Shakespeare’s play, this play also had contrasts between morals and over exaggerations of the truth.
I never cease to be surprised at just how much reading and discussing different pieces of literature actually gives me an insight into the world. Yet, the most surprising and interesting thing I have done all this semester would be our iExamen’s. Although the tasks only asked no more than just a day, they helped me to be aware of the things I do on a daily bases and I am immensely grateful to have done them.