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Deception in the Twelfth Night

Deception is seen widely throughout the play Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. Many characters are very clear about who they are and what their motives are, while some are more manipulative. Deception is shown through the clearness of Orsino’s character and the way Viola (Cesario) deceives people to play a man. Orsino is a character in the Twelfth Night that is considered much understood. He is very upfront about his actions and motives.

This is portrayed in the way that Orsino loves Olivia and the way he will do anything it takes to get her to be with him.

He makes it very clear that there is only one thing that he wants: to be with Olivia. As Orsino states his love in the play, “Oh, when mine eyes did see Olivia first, methought she purged the air of pestilence. That instant was I turned into a hart, and my desires, like fell and cruel hounds, e’er since pursue me” (1.

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1. 20-24). He is very upfront about who he is; as the count, he is better than the people around him and gets what he wants.

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The way that Olivia thinks so highly of him as a Duke, demonstrates how he is better than the people around him: “Yet I suppose him virtuous, know him noble, of great estate, of fresh and stainless youth. In voices well divulged, free, learned, and valiant; and in dimension and the shape of nature, a gracious person” (1. 5. 260-64). Orsino is a noteable character who is straightforward and determined to get what he wants. Viola (Cesario), on the other hand, is completely deceptive of who she is.

Although she deceptively dresses as a man, Viola does it so that she can stay alive in Illyria. The Captain is the only one who really knows what Viola is doing. As the Captain says, “Be you his eununch, and mute I’ll be. When my tongue blabs, then let mine eyes not see,” (1. 3. 65-66) which he also knows the reasons of doing. Throughout the entire play, Viola has to lie about who she is, but hints about her secret occasionally, like when she speaks with Orsino: “I am all the daughters of my father’s house, and all the brothers, too—and yet I know not”.

 Viola is a main example of a character that is deceptive by their appearance in the Twelfth Night. Deception is being deceived or mislead by false appearances or statements. There are different kinds of deception in the Twelfth Night, by appearance or by Shakespeare’s word choice. Deception by appearance is an easily seen trait throughout different characters in the play. Orsino is a great example of someone who is the opposite of deceptive, whereas Viola is one of the most deceptive by her appearance and can be seen throughout the play the Twelfth Night.

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Deception in the Twelfth Night. (2018, Sep 27). Retrieved from

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