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Mistaken Identity for Twelfth Night

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Mistaken Identity

William Shakespeare, in his well-known comedy Twelfth Night, creates a plot that revolves around mistaken identity and deception. Mistaken identity, along with disguises, rules the play and affects the lives of several of the characters. Shakespeare's techniques involve mistaken identity to bring humor, mystery, and complication to the play. Many characters in Twelfth Night assume disguises, beginning with Viola who is disguised as a eunuch, Maria who writes a letter to Malvolio as Olivia, and then the mix-up between Sebastian and Viola are revealed.

The instances of mistaken identity are related to many disguises in the play. Viola, who puts on male attire, begins to have everyone believe that she is a man. By dressing up in male garments, she wants to be taken as a eunuch. Viola assumes the name Cesario. While talking with the captain, Viola begins to realize that Olivia also lost her brother and is grieving just as Viola is for her brother. Viola decides to go to Duke Orsino's palace to be able to reach Olivia, the Duke's love. Viola is going to use the Duke to try to speak with Olivia about their devastating events with their brothers' deaths. Viola is going to try to be a servant for Duke Orsino which is the reason for disguising herself as a eunuch. In talking with the captain, he says to her, "Be you his eunuch, and your mute I'll be. When my tongue blabs, then let mine eyes not see" (Shakespeare 13). Through Viola's change in identity, this situation creates a conflict through the characters. Viola falls in love with Orsino but cannot tell him because he thinks she is a man. While the love of Orsion, Olivia, falls madly in love with Viola. Olivia is now in love with a woman, and Orsino often remarks on Cesario's beauty, suggesting that he is attracted to Viola even before her male disguise is removed.

Olivia's head servant Malvolio, a narcisstic character thinks that Olivia is in love with him. His self obsession leads him to these conclusions along with the misleading from Maria and other servants. The conspirators know of Malvolio and his self love and are not fond of him because of their past experiences. Maria and the conspirators decide to mislead Malvolio into thinking that Olivia is in love with him. Maria decides to lead him on by writing a letter, but means to be from Olivia. This love letter is meant to instruct Malvolio to do actions that Olivia despises. Maria is able to mislead Malvolio because she has the same print and seal as Olivia. Shakespeare is able to trick the characters and create many portrayals of them.

The mistaken identity in this play is related to the prevalence of disguises in the play as Viola's male clothing leads

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