Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Disguise in Twelfth Night

Now quite clearly this features inherently as part of the text and in I assume every performance ever staged, Viola disguises herself as a man. Yet I want to push this a little further, for I think many of the Twelfth Night characters are masking themselves behind some countenance. Malvolio for instance; his carnal lust and love for his boss is hidden behind this preposterous mask of godliness and austerity he projects onto himself and others. Certainly the Edwardian setting as pointed out by Gemma's post highlights the upstairs/downstairs status of Olivia's household and the futility of Malvolio's love-
"Thou art nothing more than a Steward"
Sir Toby here touches on this nerve that Malvolio's status clearly prevents ontologically any kind of relationship beyond butler/mistress. Malvolio's disguise is then ruthlessly removed in the dark house and the final image we see of this once austere butler is sad, pitiful and forlorn.
Olivia it could be argued is also in disguise,
"Come throw the veil o'er my face"

Her mourning has become obsessive and her grief unending- yet is this protracted grief merely a distraction for her unhappiness trapped in her dull Edwardian country house with only servants for company. The more she stays in the house the more the house and its regime oppresses her into what she is expected to be. Yet behind this countenance there lies very surely this fun loving, mischievous and immature woman dying to come out.
Beyond this we see disguise from Antonio who disguises himself to avoid being captured, Feste who disguises himself as Sir Topaz to fool Malvolio and Sir Toby who I think is disguising his grief and guilt (more on this later) in the opposite way to his cousin by drowning his sorrows.
In short- there is far more mistaken idea in Twelfth Night than meets the eye, and I look forward to exploring this as the rehearsal process goes on.


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