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Twelfth Night Comedy
The Twelfth Night is a Shakespearean romantic comedy that is filled with plenty

of humor and lots of deception. It is frequently read as a play about masking,

about the conscious and unconscious assumption of false identities and about

levels of self-knowledge and self-deception; this theme is played out

prominently through Viola’s transsexual disguise (Kahn 43). The play is

comprised of five acts and numerous scenes. However, I am only going to touch on

one of these scenes in my paper. The scene I chose to write about is act V scene

I. I chose this scene because it is the one that interested me the most, and I

feel that it is also the scene with the most hidden meanings. Act V scene I, in

my opinion, is a very complicated scene. I am going to discuss the part of the

scene just before Sebastian enters, with Viola disguised as Cesario. Viola, in

this part, is surrounded by many people all of whom think she is someone other

than the person she actually is. This is where Viola/Cesario speaking to Olivia

protests undoubtedly her love for Orsino by saying, “After him I love, More

than I love these eyes, more than my life (Twelfth Night 5.1. 134).” Olivia,

after hearing this, is confused and protests to Viola that they are married by

saying, “Whither, my lord? Cesario, husband, stay (Twelfth Night 5.1. 141)!”

Viola/Cesario denies this and is shocked by the accusation. Olivia continues to

press the issue by getting the priest to confirm the marriage. It is at this

point, when Orsino hears and believes the priest’s confirmation of the

marriage, that I feel he expresses signs of homosexuality towards Viola whom he

still believes is Cesario. Orsino becomes filled with anger and jealousy towards

Viola/Cesario saying, “Farewell, and take her, but direct thy feet where thou

and I henceforth may never meet. (Twelfth Night 5.1. 166-167).” At some level,

Cesario is a homosexual object choice for both Olivia and Orsino; at another, a

heterosexual one (Kahn 44). I believe that at this part of the scene Viola/Cesario

is experiencing some form of an identity crisis. Although she is a woman who has

deceived everyone into believing she is a man, she is now becoming bewildered by

a strange turn of events. She’s being accused of denying having known Antonio

and having beaten up Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew. She is being accused of acts

that she has not done and has no recollection of ever doing. The reason she

denies all of these wrong doings is because her brother, Sebastian, is

responsible. This casts doubt in her mind as to who she really is and what is

happening. Sebastian enters the scene and his entrance, in a way, relieves Viola

of all the accusations she has endured. It was Sebastian who Antonio has been

looking for; it was Sebastian who beat up Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew, and

finally it was Sebastian who has married Olivia. We come to realize this when he

says: I am sorry, madam, I have hurt your kinsman: But had it been the brother

of my blood, I must have done no less with wit and safety. I do perceive it hath

offended you: Pardon me, sweet one, even for the vows We made each other but so

late ago. (Twelfth Night 5.1. 207-213) Antonio! O my dear Antonio, How have the

hours rack’d and tortur’d me, Since I have lost thee! (Twelfth Night 5.1.

216-218) At this point everyone is stunned not knowing who is who. In a sense,

everyone feels as if they are seeing double. It’s ironic since Sebastian and

Viola are twins. Once Viola and Sebastian realized they were brother and sister

Viola feels as though she is free to cast off her masculine disguise and let

everyone know that she is really a woman as she...
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Greif, Karen, Modern Critical Interpretations. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York,

New Haven, Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publisher, 1987 Kahn, Coppelia,

"Choosing the Right Mate in Twelfth Night,” Modern Critical

Interpretations. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York, New Haven, Philadelphia: Chelsea

House Publisher, 1987 Williams, Porter JR Twentieth Century Interpretations of

the Twelfth Night. Ed. Walter N King. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968

Shakespeare, William. The Twelfth Night Ed. J.M. Lothian and T.W. Craik. London:

Methuen & CO. LTD, 1975
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