Scholarly Essays Twelfth Night

Scholarly Essays Twelfth Night-86
She moves from imperatives in Act I (“Conceal me what I am, and be my aid/For such disguise as haply shall become/The form of my intent/. ./ to time I will commit,/Only shape thou thy silence to my wit” [53-4, 60-1]), to “apostrophes she can utter only in soliloquy by Act II” (Krieger 107) (“Disguise, I see thou art a wickedness/Wherein the pregnant enemy does much/. ./ O time, thou must untangle this, not I,/It is too hard a knot for me t’untie” [27-8, 40-1]), and finally to prayer addressed in an aside in Act III (“Pray God defend me!

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Fortunately for Viola, however, once her social status is revealed at the end of the play, Orsino sees her as a social equal, declaring her to be her “master’s mistress” (V.i.326).

After spending the entire play playing the role of the servant, Viola is instantaneously restored to her aristocratic position and is immediately granted the respect intrinsic with this status.

Since it is this false letter which Malvolio bases his social ascent on, his mobility can be nothing but illusory.

Ironically, it is made possible by the atmosphere of holiday, despite it ending up with him in darkness.

“Ultimately, there is no fundamental difference between Malvolio’s fantasy of narcissistic withdrawal into a world in which he can be Count Malvolio. The presence of holiday creates the false sense that anyone can participate in the inherent indulgence, but because the rules of class are still present this is nothing but artifice.

In fact, the Christian sense of community itself can be seen as artifice, if one remembers the attitude expressed by Sir Toby upon his entrance and observes Maria’s efforts to maintain an “illusion of decorum” (119).

The theme of artifice manifests in is a celebration, one which includes indulgence, the blurring of rigid lines of propriety, and humor.

This acts as artifice, ultimately, because there is only the appearance of unimpeded indulgence, only the illusion of social mobility, and only humor at the expense of those who do not fit in their places.

This is evident in the play’s treatment of Malvolio’s desire for wish-fulfillment, for indulgence in an inflated sense of self.

Although Malvolio already appears to enjoy a place as a trusted steward within Olivia’s household, he desires more, perhaps, some may argue, even excess – just like the rest of the characters participating in this holiday.


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