12Th Night Explication Essay, Research Paper
12th Night Explication
I left no ring with her. What means this lady?
Fortune forbid my outside have not charmed her!
She made good view of me, indeed so much
That sure methought her eyes had lost her tongue,
For she did speak in starts distractedly.
She loves me, sure! The cunning Twelfth Night Explication
of her passion
Invites me in this churlish messenger.
None of my lord’s ring? Why, he sent her none.
I am the man. If it be so -as ’tis-
Poor lady! She were better love a dream.
Disguise, I see, though art a wickedness
Wherein the pregnant enemy does much.
How easy is it for the proper false
In women’s waxen hearts to set their forms!
Alas, our frailty is the cause, not we,
For such as we are made of, such we be.
How will this fadge? My master loves her dearly.
And I, poor monster, fond as much on him;
And she, mistaken, seems to dote on me.
What will become of this? As I am man,
My state is desperate for my master’s love.
As I am woman -now, alas the day!-
What thriftless sighs shall poor Olivia breathe!
O time, thou must untangle this, not I;
It is too hard a not for me t’ untie.
Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” is a comedy of mixed signals and romance. Viola is the character who is at the very heart of this confusion. She has taken on the disguise of a gentleman in order to perpetuate her survival as an unknown woman in a foreign land. She becomes Cesario, a gentleman with intelligence and wit, servant and confidant to Orsino. Her intentions are innocent enough, but her actions create an entanglement of desires that have escaped her control.
Viola was sent by her master Orsino to woo the lovely Mistress Olivia. Viola approaches her charge with all of the confidence and character of the man she has become. It seems that Cesario possesses a charming wit and a handsome appearance, as he makes quite an impression on Olivia. Viola only realizes this when Malvolio runs after her with a ring claiming that Viola (or rather Cesario, he thinks) brought it to Olivia from Orsino, and that Olivia will have none of it. Viola is at first baffled by the appearance of this ring and by the so obviously false story that accompanies the ring. Her bafflement soon turns to astonishment as she begins to realize Olivia’s true intentions by sending the ring after her. It is at this point that Viola discovers the full power of her well-acted disguise and finds herself in the depths of a situation that she has created.
As the consequences of her actions begin to unfold before her, Viola is struck with the level of deceptiveness that she supports with her disguise. She speaks to this realization by saying, “disguise, though art a wickedness wherein the pregnant enemy does much” (II, ii, 27). This line shows us that Viola is beginning to feel like a traitor to those around her. While not meaning to be deceptive in a harmful fashion, she realizes that disguise itself is harmful by nature. Viola feels hopelessly responsible for inadvertently pulling Olivia into her self-sustaining fa ade. She cries, “poor lady, she were better love a dream” (II, ii, 26), meaning that the substance of a dream would be more real to Olivia than Cesario, the “man” who she has fallen in love with. Viola identifies with Olivia as another woman would, for Viola is also in love with a man that is appears she cannot have. She offers excuse for the emotions of both Olivia and herself by claiming that, “alas, it is our frailty that is the cause, not we, for such as we are made of such we be” (II, ii, 31). Through this comment Viola states that women possess a tragic flaw or “frailty” which causes them to be led by their emotions and their hearts rather than by the voice of reason.
It is the voice of reason that originally leads Viola to Orsino. She knows that as a woman, she has much less chance of gaining a position of economic and social advantage in a foreign land. So she approaches Orsino as a gentleman, and becomes his humble servant. She is aware that, “as I am man, my state is desperate for my master’s love” (II, ii, 37). As long as she remains a well-liked male servant to Orsino, her future prospects look good. If he were to find out her true stature, she fears that her value as a human being would become greatly diminished in the eyes of others. But as well as she carries herself as a gentleman, she cannot fully suppress her feminine emotions. Referring to both Olivia and herself, she exclaims, “how easy is it for the proper false in women’s waxen hearts to set their forms” (II, ii, 29). This reveals how rapidly she is discovering first-hand the depth to which a handsome and cunning gentleman can seduce a woman, even unbeknownst to the gentleman himself. Viola has innocently and mistakenly seduced Olivia, and Orsino has unknowingly seduced Viola. She refers to herself as a “poor monster” (II, ii, 34) as she realizes her passion for Orsino. She has become both male and female but is no longer a clear and true example of either sex. As her identity continues to deceive those around her, it has begun to deceive even the true intentions of Viola herself. She only took on this disguise to aid her socially, not to skew the intentions of those around her. Falling in love with Orsino is a handicap to the strong gentleman she has become , and her love is impeded by the fact that she has become a strong gentleman.
Both Viola and the audience begin to understand much about disguise and the complexities of love through Viola’s speech. She becomes frustrated with her position as a pretended gentleman and realizes the consequences that her unmasking will bring: “as I am woman, -now, alas the day!- / what thriftless sighs shall poor Olivia breathe!” (II, ii, 26). She longs to reclaim her femininity, to proclaim her love to the duke, and to stop her deceptive path. However, she also realizes how disappointed Olivia would be to find that she was in love with a woman. And once again, she knows that it would most likely be her economic downfall to unmask prematurely. She desperately proclaims, “o time, thou must untangle this, not I” (II, ii, 40). As she doesn’t know how to set things straight herself, time must be the only remedy for such a situation.
In the end, it is time that causes the sequence of events to coincide in a rather fortuitous instance, allowing all parties involved to find the path to true love. Viola’s speech inspires a turning point for both her character and for the audience as she identifies with and faces the issues that have been introduced. Her speech reveals both her weaknesses and her strengths, while at the same time revealing the strengths and weaknesses of both the male and female genders.