Intro to Lit
As I read through Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, I see the consistent theme of finding one’s self through various music, objects, fashion, and dialogue. I figured this would be extremely difficult to discuss simply because I have no other works to compare it to. As this week drug on, I was stuck pondering this paper and how I would do it. Tuesday night, I found myself in a cultural event for my Latin 103 course and what was the topic you might ask? Identity in the ancient world, which is a key term we touched on in class and I picked up as I read through the acts. Each person’s identity is dependent on their own actions and interests, yet in ancient world, they cared little about this than we do today.
For example, in Twelfth Night, the dialogue and way each specific character speaks is a key indicator on who they are. My main example is Sir Toby. His sloppier choice of words reflects on his sloppy personality, which Shakespeare obviously wanted us to pick up on in order to get a 3rd person perspective on each character without directly saying it. On the contrary to this point, other characters speak more elegantly, much like they do in a romantic language thus alluding to their romantic persona. Another example of classification by identity is through music. We can tell the character is melodramatic through one simple act. As the song plays, he enjoys. As the song plays a second time, he enjoys again. After the 3rd playing, he can take no more. He reacts in a dramatic fashion as if he had just suddenly relived the pain of a sudden heartbreak. This is another key to access the character’s identity that Shakespeare uses. It is said that to determine whom a person truly is, you must see how they fair when dealing with adversity. As her brother’s death was causing her to mourn, Olivia denied the love of Orsino and Sir Andrew. This would seem reasonable if her brother hadn’t been deceased for several years already. This is another indicator on how immature and irrational she is. This could be a sign of dramatics much like I touched on before in my previous point. It also hurts her credibility in ethical fortitude when Viola shows how strong she can handle adversity even after it had just passed. Her life was made up of things she had done for herself. She stood her ground and fended for herself with no excuses, unlike Olivia. Not only is she mentally strong but also she is soulfully strong because she disregards her love for Orsino and persuades his love to love him back against her true feelings. This goes to show how truly power and strong Viola is as a person.
These variables that each character can determine for themselves are much related to what I heard from my event about ancient identity. Of course, one’s identity in the ancient world was shifted by their heritage. The lecture went deeper. It went on to say how each individual back then was raised differently based on ancient economic classes, which were much more obviously different than we see today. One thing remained, however these people grew up, their culture, their dress, their ancestors, and most of all, their wealth and reason for attaining it shaped them. In this play, I questioned to myself, “why don’t these characters just be upfront and open, thus confronting other characters about their true identity and actions? “ It would seemingly make things much easier if everyone saw each other for which they were, good or bad. This is where the event aided me. In ancient world, people didn’t look at identity as we do today. They certainly weren’t as judgmental. They saw people as strictly the being in front of their eyes and nothing deeper. Identity to us is different than identity is to someone living in the time of Shakespeare’s day.