Analysis of Themes in Twelfth Night-CSEC English B


“Twelfth Night” explores several interrelated themes, blending comedy with elements of romance and reflection.

Here is an analysis of some key themes in the play, supported by evidence from the text:

  1. Love and Desire:

    • Evidence: The theme of love is central to the play. Orsino’s unrequited love for Olivia, Olivia’s mourning turning into love for Cesario (Viola in disguise), and Viola’s hidden love for Orsino create a web of romantic entanglements. Viola, as Cesario, says, “I’ll do my best to woo your lady. Yet a barful strife! Whoe’er I woo, myself would be his wife.”
  2. Mistaken Identity:

    • Evidence: The entire plot is driven by mistaken identity, particularly Viola’s disguise as Cesario. This leads to confusion and comic situations, such as Olivia falling in love with Viola, thinking she is a man. Viola (Cesario) states, “I am all the daughters of my father’s house, and all the brothers too.”
  3. Gender and Disguise:

    • Evidence: Viola’s cross-dressing as Cesario raises questions about gender roles and identity. The audience witnesses the challenges and humour that arise from Viola’s disguise. Viola remarks, “I am the man. If it be so, as ’tis, poor lady, she were better love a dream.”
  4. Folly and Deception:

    • Evidence: The subplot involving Sir Toby, Maria, and Sir Andrew deceiving Malvolio underscores the theme of folly and deception. Malvolio’s self-deception, believing in Olivia’s love for him, adds a darker and more satirical tone to the play. Sir Toby comments, “Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?”
  5. Madness and Sanity:

    • Evidence: Malvolio’s mistreatment and his subsequent confinement in a dark room explore the thin line between madness and sanity. His delusions and the treatment he receives raise questions about the nature of sanity. Malvolio declares, “I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you!”
  6. Social Class and Hierarchy:

    • Evidence: The play delves into issues of social class, particularly through Malvolio’s character. His aspirations to rise above his social status and the subsequent mockery by Sir Toby and others highlight class dynamics. Maria states, “I know I am but humour, and a snap that way will ne’er be clean.”
  7. Revelry and Festivity:

    • Evidence: The play is set during the festive period of Twelfth Night, and themes of revelry and celebration permeate the narrative. Feste’s role as a fool and the overall atmosphere of festivity contribute to the play’s comedic tone. Feste sings, “Present mirth hath present laughter. What’s to come is still unsure.”
  8. True Identity and Self-Discovery:

    • Evidence: The play concludes with the revelation of Viola and Sebastian’s true identities, resolving the confusion caused by their resemblance. This theme underscores the idea that self-discovery and the acknowledgement of one’s true identity lead to resolution. Viola says, “Conceal me what I am, and be my aid for such disguise as haply shall become the form of my intent.”

In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare masterfully weaves these themes together, creating a play that explores both the comedic and more serious aspects of human nature and society.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *