Interwoven Themes Connect from Beginning to End
Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night comically incorporates themes of misguided identity as well as love through colossal misunderstanding and confusion within every characters relationship. Shakespeare portrays an array of characters from the dramatic Duke and Olivia to the sensible Viola. These characters often act like foils to each other opening each character towards their progression between acts all while incorporating the main themes of the play. This comical play develops its character through the woven themes as well as through their foil characters to unmask the secrecies hidden by Viola and many other characters.
Misguided as well as mistaken identity serves to be on of the main themes for Twelfth Night. Although it appears only Viola is dressed up in a full disguise, Olivia uses a veil to cover herself, and even Malvolio portrays himself in a manner unfit for his identity. These misguided costumes change the way that many of the characters act and feel about one another and once they are revealed to be just costumes opinion is swayed once again. Mistaken identity takes place mostly when Sebastian arrives in Illyria as he is mistaken for Cesario, which causes extreme chaos. Ironically Sebastian is one of the only characters who does not hide behind a façade and is one of the only to be mistaken for another identity. Cesario, who Viola is disguised as, is the reason behind Sebastian’s chaos in Illyria. Malvolio is also mistaken as a madman because of his misguided impulses that are lead by the prank between Maria and Sir Toby. Yet despite Viola being the only character that completely fools other in her appearance she seems to be the one most accepted when she reveals who she is. It is also Viola’s character, who serves as a foil for both the Duke and Olivia, that we are able to unmask what really lies beneath each other these dramatic characters. Her disguise, Cesario, ironically opens up the previous shut off to genuine emotion on behalf of not only Olivia but also Duke. It seems that not only Viola’s disguise helped unmask these identities but also the development of the nature of love that is established between these three characters throughout the play.
The nature of love seems to progress from a fickle love to genuine through the acts and development of characters. At first glance we see the Duke who claims to be in love with Olivia being fickle in his choice to embrace it. He claims that she is his great love yet makes no real effort to prove it to her and sends servants, such as Cesario, to woe her instead. It is through the Duke’s command to Cesario that orders her to woe Olivia on his behalf that the first glimpse of genuine love is seen however, it is not Olivia’s feelings for Duke but actually Viola’s. The Duke does not ever seem to grow any genuine love for Olivia but it is made aware he is capable of such feeling through his words and interactions with Cesario. He has given his soul to Cesario-something he seems incapable of doing for Olivia. There is also a change in Olivia’s opinion regarding love when she falls listens to Cesarios way of wooing a woman, that of whom she is unaware that she is a man. This small speech given by Cesario, which is actually speaking of what Viola would do, allows Viola to unveil herself and become open to love. Her ideology towards love has evolved just with a few words that show her development as a character through the theme of love. Even the bitter and dark Malvolio changes his mood and attitude when he finds the letter he believes to be written by Olivia. Love seems to have an evolving effect on the characters in the Twelfth Night and plays into not only the dramatics of the story but also the comical aspects.
Both themes contribute to the changing circumstances as well as the changing personas of the characters. The constant weaving of each theme throughout each act and scene allows readers to see a connection between the beginning and end that allow for all the loose ends to be tied during the final act. The connections displaced from the beginning of the play until the end remind me of the connection my body and mind take during meditation practices. Just how different events in the characters lives permit them to change and evolve into different personas so does the evaluation of my life during meditation. It allows me to center myself and gain perspective on the situation just as when the characters of the Twelfth Night are enlightened in various aspects not only by the reveal of Olivia but also through the presence of Cesario. Through this class I have gained such a perspective that there is such an ability to connect everything you read in literature to everything you do in real life. Through class discussion I was able to see the array of opinions and intelligence of my classmates that inspired me to do my work and to participate in school lectures, meditation, and events.