Throughout William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” the characters are constantly struggling with their own identity. The two main characters that struggle with identity are the Duke and Viola/Cesario. The Duke’s struggle with identity comes from his emotional instability. Viola’s identity issue on the other hand comes from her willingness to change everything she is. Identity is a theme that we have focused on heavily in Zen Meditation. From the first meditation to this last on I attended finding yourself and who you really are was the primary reason for meditating. The characters of “Twelfth Night” and I share the commonality of finding our true identity and figuring out the person we want to be.
The Duke of Illyria more formally known as Orsino is one of the characters that struggle with identity the most. Right from the beginning of the play, we see his instability with his emotions. While he tries to tell us that he is in love with Olivia we as readers/listeners become skeptical based on his inability to adequately express his emotions. He struggles with the way he feels about everything. It is not only his emotions towards the one he supposedly loves but also with things like music. He says “If music be the food of love, play on;… That strain again! It had a dying fall:… Enough; no more: ‘T is not so sweet now as it was before”(Shakespeare 1). He goes from completely adoring and loving the music that is playing and asking for it to be played again and again to never wanting to hear it again. His indecisiveness carries over to his love for Olivia. When Olivia exclaims that she needs seven years to heal after her brother’s death in order to love again and Orsino is completely okay with it. He also does not face his emotions head on. He constantly has messengers expressing his emotions to Olivia; his newest messenger being Cesario aka Viola.
Viola’s struggle with identity is one she creates for herself. When she is rescued by the Captain after a shipwreck she decides it is time for her to recreate who she is. By pretending to be a man, Viola gets the opportunity to see life in a different perspective. Without money or knowing anyone in Illyria this is easy for Viola to do. Viola’s decision to cross dress shows that she is struggling with her own identity. Not many decide to cross dress unless they have identity issues that they are trying to deal with. Her changing her identity also brings about many issues. While Viola is in love with Orsino, Olivia is in love with Cesario aka Viola. This identity issue that Viola is struggling with brings about all kind of problems for everyone involved in the situation. Throughout the play Viola finally discovers whom she is when her twin brother Sebastian comes to Illyria. She can finally show who she really is to Orsino who in turn decides to marry Viola. Her identity issues were because she thought her brother had died but when he came back into the picture, Viola knew who she really was.
When I first started Zen Meditation, we were told that by the end of the semester that we would find ourselves. This week in meditation I focused a lot on myself considering the semester is coming to an end. I have developed in a different person since being here on campus. I have not fully developed into the person I want to be but know the kind of person I want to be. Meditation has helped me with this because it gives me time to reflect on everything that has happened during my day and past week. Identity is an important thing in life because without knowing who you are you cannot be the person you really want to be. Meditation has helped me decide on the identity I want to uphold throughout my life.
Throughout this semester I have learned a lot not only from this class but also from my meditation experience. Meditation is not something I would usually do. The decision to do meditation is one of the best decisions I made all semester. It helped me reflect on life and everything that has happened. Like in “Twelfth Night” identity is a big issue in everyone’s life. The way in which the characters in “Twelfth Night” handled their identity issues are an inspiration along with meditation. Meditation was a way for me to find and develop myself into the person I want to be.