To Believe, or Not To Believe
In the study of three of Shakespeare's plays, Twelfth Night, or What You Will, The Tragedy of Richard II, and Henry IV, Part 1, one of the themes that is presented is the contrast of "appearance vs. reality." Sometimes the confusion is comedic, and at other times, it is simply tragic.
In examining Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, or What You Will, it becomes apparent that the theme of "appearance vs. reality" is evident at many different levels. One of the comedic devices utilized is the mistaken identity of the twins, Viola and Sebastian. We are asked to believe that these two fraternal twins who are brother and sister are so identical in appearance that, when dressed in similar fashion, they are indistinguishable from one another. The disguise of Viola is so effective that the fair Olivia mistakes her for a young man (Cesario) and falls in love, not only with his/her appearance, but also with the intelligence and grace with which he/she addresses her. The illusion is so complete that when Olivia sees Sebastian, she assumes that he is the person with whom she is already acquainted. Sebastian is puzzled by her advances, but decides to accept the beautiful Olivia at face value (Bates).
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