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The Twelfth Night


In Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night", it is clearly evident
that the fluctuation in attitude to the dual role
(situation and tribulations) imposed upon the character of
Viola/Cesario ends up in a better understanding of both
sexes, and thus, allows Viola to have a better
understanding of Orsino. Near the opening of the play, when
Viola is adopting her male identity, she creates another
self, like two masks and may decide to wear one or the
other while swinging between the two identities in emotion
and in character. She decides to take on this identity
because she has more freedom in society in her Cesario
mask, which is evident when she is readily accepted by
Orsino, whereas, in her female identity she would not be.
Thus, a customary role in society and the outlooks of
others is portrayed.
Orsino sees Cesario, as a young squire just starting out in
the world, much like himself as a young, spry lad. Seeking
a companion with whom he can share his thoughts, as well as
someone whom he can teach, he readily accepts the young
squire. Thus, Viola grows in her male disguise and gets a
better feeling for his inner self, not the self that he
shows to the public, or would reveal and share with Viola
in her true female self, but rather his secret self, as he
believes he is sharing with a peer. In this capacity, she
grows to love him. But, Orsino's motivation is actually not
love for Viola, but rather he seems to be in love with love
itself. His entire world is filled with love but he knows
that there might be a turning point for him, when he says:
If music be the food of love, play on; give me
 excess of it, that, surfeiting, the appetite may
 sicken, and so die. 1. (I,I,I-III)
This quote shows that he knows that he is so caught up in
"love", that he hopes his appetite for love may simmer when
he takes more than he can handle.
1. Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night. Longman's Canada
Limited, Don Mills, Ontario, 1961. All subsequent quotes
are from this edition.
Near the end of the play, when all tricks and treacheries
are revealed and all masks are lifted, Orsino "falls" in
love with Viola. He first forgives her/him of her/his duty
to him, the master; then says that she shall now be her
master's mistress:
Your master quits you; and for your service
 done him, so much against the mettle of your
 sex, so far beneath your soft and tender
 breeding, and since you call'd me master for
 so long, here is my hand. You shall from
 this time be your master's mistress. (V,I,322-327)
This is sort of a switching love as he thought he was in
love with Olivia in the beginning, but, he readily switches
his love to Viola, as he feels he knows her personality

As for Viola, she declares her love for Orsino many times,
as if by saying that she would love him if she were a lady.
When Orsino first sends Cesario to act as a messenger and
send Orsino's love to Olivia, Cesario proclaims: 

I'll do my best to woo your lady; [aside]
 yet, a barful strife! Whoe'er I woo,
 myself would be his wife. (I,IV, 40-42) 

This shows that Viola knows what a difficult situation she
is in, and that she could try to woo her out of loving
Orsino, so that she might have him for herself; except
there is a slight, unexpected twist of fate...
After Cesario leaves from Olivia's, she declares:
 "What is your parentage?" "Above my fortunes,
 yet my state is well; I am a gentleman." I'll be sworn
thou art. 
 Thy tongue, thy face, thy limbs, and spirit, do give thee
five-fold blazon.
 Not too fast: soft, soft! Unless the master were the man. 
 How now! Even so quickly may one catch the plague? 
 Me thinks I feel this youth's perfections 
 with an invisible and subtle stealth to creep in at mine
 Well, let it be. What ho, Malvolio! (I,V, 289-298)
Olivia, is thinking back to her question to Cesario, and
his response to it. Then she replies to Cesario's response,
to herself, thinking about him. She agrees with his
response, then goes over his many delightful features, and
wonders how she so quickly has caught the plague of love
for young Cesario. She decides that it is her feeling
towards his youthful perfections that creep into her heart
and to her eyes. Then she agrees with her decision, and
sends for Malvolio, in hope that he may recall Cesario, so
that she may talk with him again. Olivia feels a strong
passionate love for Cesario, even though it was love at
first sight for her. Cesario presented (himself) very
magnificently and left a lasting impression in Olivia's
The next time that Cesario came by, Olivia declared:
Cesario, by the roses of the spring, 
 by maidhood, honour, truth and everything, 
 I love thee so, that, maugre all thy pride, 
 nor wit nor reason can my passion hide. (III,I,145-148)
This verifies that Olivia is profoundly in love with
Cesario, despite all his pride. But, Cesario does not
possess the same sentiments for Olivia as he says:
By innocence I swear, and by my youth, 
 I have one heart, one bosom and one truth, 
 And that no woman has; nor never none shall mistress be of
it, save I alone. 
 And so adieu, good madam. (III,I,153-157) 

Here, Viola tells Olivia that she could never love her, nor
any other woman because she only has one love (to Orsino)
and is loyal. But, Olivia is still in love, and requests
that Cesario return.
Overall, 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. As
well she also acquired the skill to bide her time, until
the time was right, lest she reveal her true self or


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