William Shakespeare wrote the play ‘Twelfth Night’ in around 1601. In that period of time, the Elizabethans had a great interest in comedy. This may have been one of the reasons as to why there is quite a bit of confusion in the play as it is mainly about mistaken identity. In this time, we find it quite hard to understand as to why women would have been disguised as men, but in the Elizabethan time, when the play was written, women weren’t allowed to act. Instead, young boys had to play the parts of women. In Shakespearean times, women were considered to be inferior to men and in ‘Twelfth.
Night’, it is set in a time when women were also thought to be weaker. So to have it the other way round where the women were strong and the men more emotional set out to being very odd. However, in Twelfth Night, it appears to me to be true. At the beginning of the play, Viola is convinced that her brother Sebastian has drowned in the storm. She dresses up as a man, and renames herself Cesario, and decides to seek employment as a musician for the Duke Orsino. We are able to see Viola’s strong character at the beginning of the play.
Within three days, Viola, dressed up as Cesario, has proved herself as such a loyal friend towards Orsino That he ends up confiding all of his secrets to him. “I have unclasped to thee the book even of my secret soul therefore, good youth, address Thy gait unto her” (Act 1, Scene 4, Lines 13-14) Viola has created herself a new identity which allows her to have more freedom in society. This new identity allows he to be accepted by Orsino, as if she were in her female identity, then she would not have been accepted.
Viola is ordered by Orsino to go and express his love for Olivia, but she refuses to see anyone as she claims that she is going to be mourning the death of her brother for seven Years. We notice that both Olivia and Viola have to be independent women as the two have instantly lost their brothers and as well as their fathers. “O my poor brother, and so perchance may he be. ” (Act 1, Scene 2, Line 7) “In the protection of his son, her, brother who shortly also died, for whose dear love, They say she hath abjured the company and sight of men” (Act 1, Scene 2, lines 38-41) Viola is being told by the captain that both her father and her brother have died within the last year.
And that she will not have nay contact with any other man. This shows that Olivia has now reached the stage of mourning. But she has also been able to remain strong as we later discover. Olivia may also be a strong woman as she is a duchess who is of a high social standing. She knows that she doesn’t need a man to support her as she is very wealthy and that she is of a high class. ‘What’s she? ‘ “A virtuous maid, the daughter of a count” (Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 34-35) Even though her father has died, she can still afford to live lavishly as she also comes from a wealthy background.