Duality In Twelfth Night

Decent Essays
The human personality is always changing, and to trust that a personality is stagnant tends to show ignorance. In William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” the fluidity of identity is revealed by the shifting characters and emotions throughout the play. However, two characters in the play parody the shallow nature of stagnancy. In the first act of the play, the reader meets Olivia, a wealthy noblewoman that is in mourning of her brother and father who have recently died. To each of her other suiters, she explains that she cannot marry because she is deeply saddened by her brother and father’s passing. However, this seems to change when Olivia meets Cesario, who is actually a woman named Viola disguised as a man. Despite his rude nature Olivia instantly falls for the handsome and young Cesario. Demonstrating her simple nature, Olivia compares herself to a portrait for the first time when she says to Cesario, “Have you any commission from your lord to negotiate with my face? You are out of your text. But we will draw the curtain and show you the picture. Look you, sir, such a one I was this present. Is’t not well done?” (1.5.219-225). Portraits are beautiful, stable, and grossly inaccurate. Although …show more content…
The marriages, just like Olivia, are beautiful in a particular moment in time. By ending the play when he does, Shakespeare leaves us imagining the happy couple’s portraits, not their futures. We are given a perfect sliver of their lives where lack of depth can be forgotten. Shakespeare crafts Olivia’s portrait metaphor to portray the fickle nature of beauty, and to emphasize his appreciation of wit and substance when compared to it. As Feste reminds us as a counter to Olivia’s metaphor at the end of the play, “By swaggering could I never thrive, for the rain it raineth every day” (5.1.392-393). Unlike intelligence and wisdom, beauty is fleeting with time. Which unfortunately just keeps moving

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