In “Twelfth Night, or What You Will,” Shakespeare always seems to keep the suspense going throughout this play by generating a complex plot. An ongoing theme that keeps this plot interesting is his use of identity. There is much quandary within the characters circumstances as some do not know how they feel, some change their minds, and some just get put in awkward situations that make them question themselves. When I volunteer with Soccer Without Borders, we make sure the kids stay true to their identities because they all are from different parts of the world. Identity is important to them as it is to us, and we try to teach them how important it is to show them respect of each other’s cultural backgrounds. Staying true to one’s identity is an important aspect of life and Shakespeare presents this idea in his own creative way throughout this play.
In this play, the relationships between characters intertwine and are connected whether the characters know it themselves or not. There are multiple ways in which Shakespeare uses identity to help create this complicated, yet entertaining plot. The first depiction of identity is when Viola decides to disguise herself as a young man, taking the name of Cesario, so she could work in Duke Orsino’s household. This one form of trickery altars the rest of the play in many ways by creating sexual confusion within the ‘love triangle’ that becomes apparent. Viola takes a bold risk by putting on male clothes and making everyone believe she is a young man because any wrong move could uncover her disguise. What Viola thought to be a clever idea, only puts her in an awkward situation. Because she is now ‘Cesario,’ she cannot tell Duke Orsino she loves him, and she cannot tell Olivia why she (as Cesario) cannot love her back. This swap of identity becomes the central conflict in the play. This identity swap soon becomes an issue in the final scene when everyone has a different idea of who she is. Luckily for Viola, the appearance of Sebastian saves her by taking over the roles she was trying to maintain throughout the play all along. Although she got what she wanted, this scene helps show how staying true to your own identity is necessary in order to stay out of trouble.
Another identity situation within the play is when the letter orders Malvolio to wear specific elements of clothing and to act in a certain way. The letter writes, “Remember who commended thy yellow stockings, and wished to see thee ever cross-gartered: I say, remember” (33). Malvolio takes the demands of the letter seriously and dresses opposite to how he usually would. He changes his image because he does not know his own identity. This shows how knowing one’s identity will help one be strong and independent. This letter manipulates Malvolio into thinking he needs to do exactly what the letter says in order to succeed within this situation.
This identity manipulation directly connects to working with the middle school students within Soccer Without Borders because every student is learning at a different pace depending on when they have become apart of the program. We welcome each new student in the same respect and we want him or her to feel equally acceptable no matter what his or her circumstances may be. We strive for every student to focus on their individual goals because they are all on different intellectual levels. Soccer Without Borders brings together the activity of playing soccer in order to bring those together who enjoy such an exciting activity. It makes me smile when I see these kids play on the field because their excitement and enjoyment fills me with a feeling I cannot even describe. The idea of these students enjoying the environmental benefits the world has to offer makes me feel as though we have all contributed to something special. Identity is something truly important to our soul because it directly correlates to who we are as individuals. Shakespeare uses this theme to demonstrate the idea that identity is what identifies who we are.