by Sam Jacklitsch (Circle 1)
Throughout the reading of the first two Acts of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, it is obvious that already many lies, love triangles, and questioning role reversals are surfacing, which calls for a very interesting and enjoyable play. When we are first introduced to the Duke Orsino, it is apparent that he is very determined and confident in winning over Olivia’s hand in love and marriage. Orsino believes that he is almighty and is capable of a love so strong that it will make Olivia forget about the deaths of her brother and father. The most interesting thing about this situation is the role reversal in this play. Typically in a traditional situation of this time, Olivia would probably be married off to Orsino if that is what her father wished. Since Olivia is in the predicament she’s in, she is able to decide her own fate in who she marries or decides not to. Olivia is in control of her own life which is very uncommon to see in this time period.
Another woman that is pushing role reversal is Viola. Shakespeare has complicated the gender roles in this apparent love situation with Olivia as disguising Viola as a man when she was an upper class woman. Viola is the most interesting character thus far in making the risky and dangerous decision in disguising as a man, “Cesario.” When “he” makes his journey to confess yet again the love Orsino manifests for Olivia, it is then obvious that Olivia has fallen in love with Cesario-“I do I know not what and fear to find Mine eye too great a flatterer for my mind. Fate, show thy force. Ourselves we do not owe. What is decreed must be, and be this so” (1. 2. 283). I’m beginning to see how quickly the Shakespearean world falls in love! This not only poses a problem because Olivia is not aware of this disguise but also we could see a woman dictating the relationship. The fact that Viola made the decision for herself to conduct such a plan I applaud her. She is a very smart and relentless woman who is willing to make it in this world on her own even if she has to pretend to be a man.
The last woman this far who has made an impact on the play is Maria with her quick witted plan to fool Malvolio. I think that a woman tricking a man into pretending another woman is utterly in love with him is great! Malvolio took the bait so easily and it was quite humorous to watch it in the movie because it is exactly how I pictured it in my head when I read it. Maria is Olivia’s lady in waiting, something of the sorts like a mentor. Malvolio thinks he is this larger than life man who likes to dream about bossing around, “Calling my officers about me, in my branched velvet gown, having come from a daybed, where I have left Olivia sleeping—“ (2. 5. 48). Malvolio is seriously delusional which makes the joke even funnier.
Twelfth Night thus far is such a great play and I am very excited to see how the lie about “Cesario,” the love triangle with Olivia, Viola/Cesario, and Orsino falls into place, and to see if there is more instances of woman’s role reversal.