Disguise in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure and Twelfth Night

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Disguise in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure and Twelfth Night Disguise is a device Shakespeare employs frequently in both Measure for Measure and Twelfth Night. It allows a disguised character like the Duke of Vienna to glean information that would otherwise go unknown, and a character like Viola to take advantage of potentially beneficial situations. It gives these characters access to worlds that might otherwise be denied; for the Duke, he can now "haunt assemblies / Where youth and cost a witless bravery keeps" (1.4.9-10). For Viola, she might "serve the duke" (1.2.51) and thus hopefully keep company with Olivia, who also lost a brother. Disguise is especially appropriate in the…show more content…
She hopes to serve Olivia so that, being in the same company as a woman who has also lost her brother, Viola might make "[her] own occasion mellow" (1.2.39) before she is "delivered to the world" (1.2.38). From the moment that she takes on this new appearance, however, her plans fall victim to the same excess that runs throughout the play. Instead of simply being in Orsino's favor and thus gaining access to Olivia, Viola quickly wins Orsino's devout affection. Valentine comments that Orsino "hath known you but three days, and already you are / no stranger" (1.4.1-4). Viola's disguise achieves her purpose, however: Orsino tells her to "address thy gait unto her, / ... stand at her doors, / ... Till thou have audience" (1.4.15-18). While pursuing Olivia, though, Viola falls in love with the Duke, saying to him, "I'll do my best / To woo your lady" and then aside, "yet a barful strife-/ Whoe'er I woo, myself would be his wife" (1.5.40-2). Viola is not the only one affected by her plan; Olivia falls in love with Viola, instead of with Orsino. In 2.2, Viola exclaims, "Disguise, I see thou art a wickedness / Wherein the pregnant enemy does much" (2.2.27-8). She laments the tangled state of affairs she has come in to: "My master loves [Olivia] dearly, / And I, poor
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