Deception plays a large role in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The characters must contend with love triangles, mistaken identity, and unrequited love. In the midst of all this deception, some truths are revealed.
Viola is one of the main characters who is caught up in the web of lies. She washes ashore in Illyria after her shipwreck and decides to disguise herself as a man, Cesario. Viola does this in order to find work and protect herself. Her deception is successful and she soon finds herself working for Duke Orsino.
Orsino is in love with Olivia, who has recently lost her brother and father and has sworn off men. However, Olivia falls for Viola, who she believes is Cesario. This creates a love triangle where no one knows the truth.
Another character who is deceitful is Sir Toby Belch. He encourages his niece Olivia to fall in love with Duke Orsino even though he knows that she does not truly love him. Sir Toby also spreads rumors about Olivia’s supposed affairs with other men.
In the end, all the lies and deception are unraveled. Viola reveals her true identity to Olivia and Orsino. Sir Toby’s deceit is also revealed and he is forced to leave Olivia’s household. Although the truth has come out, the characters have all been changed by their experience with deception.
A recurrent theme in William Shakespeare’s comedic play “Twelfth Night” is deception. The characters in the play employed deception for a variety of goals. Viola disguised herself as a man in order to get hired by the Duke of Illyria, Orsino, whereas Maria, Olivia’s servant, wrote Malvolio a letter on Olivia’s stationery to make him look ridiculous because of his love for her. Some people deceive others to survive while others use deceptions to fool them and force them into being stupid.
In “Twelfth Night”, Shakespeare shows that deception can be used for both good and bad purposes.
While Viola’s deception is meant to help her survive in a new place, Maria’s deception is meant to cause harm to Malvolio. Viola is shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria and must find a way to make a living. She decides to disguise herself as a man, Cesario, and becomes a servant to Duke Orsino. Viola does this because she knows that it would be difficult for a woman to get a job in Illyria.
By disguising herself as a man, Viola is able to get a job and support herself. Maria’s deception, on the other hand, is meant to harm Malvolio. Maria knows that Malvolio is in love with Olivia and decides to write a letter in Olivia’s handwriting to make him act foolishly. This deception causes Malvolio to be wrongly imprisoned because he is mistaken for being mad.
The first example of deception in this play was when Viola disguised herself as a man. Although they barely escaped a shipwreck, Sebastian and Viola were separated because of the calamity. Each twin believes the other has perished in the wreck, so they are separated. Because she has no relatives or means to support herself, Captain Orsino advises Viola to seek employment with Duke Orsino since there is no way for her to survive on her own.
Viola agrees to this and decides to disguise herself as a man since women are not able to hold any positions of power in society. She comes up with the name Cesario and joins Duke Orsino’s household. Viola does an excellent job in fooling everyone, even the Duke who she falls in love with, into thinking she is a man.
The next example of deception occurs when Maria, Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Fabian plan to trick Malvolio. They forge a letter supposedly written by Olivia which says that she is in love with him. The letter instructs Malvolio to wear yellow stockings crossed over at the knees, be constantly smiling, and act Insanely. This is all done in an attempt to make Malvolio look foolish so that Sir Toby can continue to drink and party without Malvolio’s complaint. Malvolio falls for the trap and does everything the letter says. Olivia sees him and thinks he has truly lost his mind.
The final example of deception is when Viola reveals her true identity to Sebastian. By this time, Sebastian has married Olivia thinking she was Viola the entire time. Viola shows up and Sebastian is shocked to see her alive. Viola tells him the entire story of how she survived the shipwreck and has been masquerading as a man ever since. Sebastian is amazed by this story and the two finally reunite after being apart for so long.
Deception plays a big role in Twelfth Night and it is one of the main themes of the play. Shakespeare uses deception to create humor, romance, and drama in the story. It is also used to further the plot along and keep the audience engaged. Deception is something that everyone can relate to in some way and it is a timeless theme that is still relevant today.
To get a job and survive, Viola must impersonate a man. “The form of my endeavor mayhap be / That I shall serve this duke. Thou shalt present me as an eunuch to him. It could be worthwhile your efforts, for I can sing and talk with him in many forms of music, which will allow me to serve him very well” (1.2 lines 50-55). At Orsino’s home, Viola assumes the name Cesario to obtain the position.
The deception is successful, and Viola even falls in love with Orsino while posing as Cesario. However, complications arise when Olivia falls in love with “Cesario” and Orsino becomes jealous of the attention “Cesario” is receiving. Deception is a critical element in Twelfth Night, as it leads to mistaken identity, heartache, and ultimately, reconciliation.
Viola, in the guise of Cesario, carries Orsino’s love letters to Olivia. However, Olivia refused to accept them until Viola delivered them herself. It is only then that Viola realized that Olivia was actually in love with her as Cesario and she herself was in love with Orsino – who still loved Olivia.
This is a big misunderstanding because of the deception. If Viola had just revealed her true identity to Orsino and Olivia from the beginning, then a lot of pain could have been avoided. Deception is a common theme in Twelfth Night and it often leads to comical situations but also to pain and heartache.