British Literature: Concealment in Twelfth Night Throughout Twelfth Night, concealment influences each character’s life because it’s essential to portray how falsehood can be amusing or agonizing before they can discover their identity in life. Therefore, the concept of concealment not only affects the characters’ mistaken identities and abilities to express true love, but it gives the story comedic and entertaining qualities.
Furthermore, concealment portrayed throughout this story makes each character develop an identity with either showing cleverness or madness, while it also makes each character realize the principles towards obtaining love and truth. For instance, Viola’s disguise as Cesario and Feste’s costume as Sir Topas shows that they are both clever and amusing which causes characters to experience deception and confusion until their identities are revealed.
With this in mind, concealment not only deludes characters from reality, but it exposes the abundance of true love among Viola, Orsino, Olivia, Sebastian, Maria and Sir Toby, which leads to three marriages within the story. Nevertheless, concealment causes the people to experience deceptions and illusions, but also provides humor concerning the morality of human behavior. Moreover, the first example of concealment during the Twelfth Night is Viola’s disguise as Cesario.
Viola’s concealment is central to the plot because it is clearly evident that the fluctuation in attitude to the dual role and the situations and tribulations imposed upon the character Viola/Cesario, ends up creating a better understanding of both sexes and thus, allows Viola to have a better understanding of Orsino. For instance, at the end of the story when Orsino finally realizes who Cesario is, he professes his love to Viola by saying: “When that is known, and golden time convents, A solemn combination shall be made Of our dear souls.
Meantime, sweet sister, We will not part from hence. Cesario, come- For so you shall be, while you are a man; But when in other habits you are seen, Orsino’s mistress and his fancy’s queen” (5. 1. 352-358). Consequently, Viola learns that in the role of Cesario, she had to be quick on her feet and defend the probing questions and statements as to her love and others love for her. Also, she acquired the skill to bide her time, until the time was right, in case she reveal her true self or intentions.
The disguise also prevents Viola from expressing her love for Orsino, it contributes to the dramatic ironies by causing complications of mistaken identity. Moreover, Viola cannot show her love for Orsino, the only way she can express them is in her soliloquies to the reader, this contributes to the dramatic ironies. For example, when Viola conveys to Orsino what Olivia told her concerning love by saying: “A blank, my lord. She never told her love, But let concealment, like a worm i’ the bud, Feed on her damask cheek. She pined in thought, And with a green and yellow melancholy
She sat like patience on a monument, Smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed? We men may say more, swear more, but indeed Our shows are more than will, for still we prove Much in our vows, but little in our love” (2. 4. 108-115). There are many examples of concealment concerning Viola alone, which enables her to work for Orsino as a messenger: it causes Olivia to fall in love with her and it causes both of them to disguise their feelings from each other until Orsino becomes aware that Cesario is Viola. Concealment also causes mistaken identity.
For example, Sir Andrew goes looking for Cesario, strikes him, finds out later it is, Sebastian. Sebastian hits him in return, but sevenfold, and Sebastian having been in Illyria only a few days is proposed to by a beautiful lady and is hit by a man he had never seen before, ” Why, there’s for thee, and there, and there! Are all the people mad? “(4. 1. 16-17). This is a funny series of events started by the disguise of one single woman. It is evident therefore, that the disguises of Viola / Cesario as an example are very important and central to the plot.
Also, it portrays how some characters are deceived about their true nature. An example of this is when Orsino sees himself becoming Olivia’s sweet perfections, fulfilling her sexual desire, thought and feeling. He naively believes that he is in love with Olivia when he has never really spoken with her. Another example is Olivia adopting the pretence of mourning and the puritanical Malvolio is tricked into the role of Olivia’s suitor and becomes a smiling courtier. As a result, oncealment contributes to most of the comedy because there is the occasion when Feste dresses up as Sir Topas and Sir Toby brings the joke to an end out of self interest than any concern for Malvolio.
Feste uses a black parson’s gown, which is, ironically, the color normally associated with Malvolio, who in contrast is dressed in bright colors. This reversal provides a visible symbol of just how thoroughly his pride has been humiliated. Feste says, “There is no darkness but ignorance” and Malvolio’s ignorance has been ruthlessly exposed, although he was ignorant to think that Olivia loved him in the first place (4. . 33). It is the verbal and character comedy of Sir Topas, showing how humor comes from the rapid switching of roles and, if rather uneasily, from the deception of Malvolio. There are also more subtle examples of concealment in the Twelfth Night, the nature of characters as well as their identities are disguised. In the letter to Malvolio, Sir Toby Belch disguises his real motives behind his show of friendship for Sir Andrew. Illyria could also be a disguised England, not many people had traveled in Shakespeare’s day and so perhaps he made up Illyria to be a fantasy England.
This place could be where all stereotypes of English people get up to a variety of things, creating familiar stereotypes in a slightly different setting. Perhaps also, Shakespeare wishes to show his audience how ready humans are to disguise themselves: Orsino and Olivia are both disguising their feelings, Malvolio’s vanity and illusions about himself and his mistress help in his humiliation. The irony is that Orsino and Olivia are led to face reality by the characters Viola and Sebastian, who are at the center of the confusion over identity.
Disguised characters were a stock convention of comedy, but Shakespeare uses the device to give it wider significance. The play makes us consider what our beliefs are about ourselves and others based upon. Therefore, in conclusion, it can be seen how very important and significant the theme of concealment is. Many forms of concealment featured in the play portray how emotions and intentions are disguised behind an outer appearance, pretence or an attitude in which the characters possess within each situation.
Concealment connects the story, the characters and the different scenes in the play. However, if there wasn’t concealment in the Twelfth Night, there wouldn’t be any humor reflecting the conflicts or problems, which influences the characters’ lives with understanding the truth about love and what causes illusion/deception.
Bibliography Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night. The Longman Anthology of British Literature. Ed. David Damrosch et al. 4th ed. New York: Longman, 2009. Vol. 1B. pp. 1217-1272.
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