Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Twelfth Night Viola Character Analysis

Casey Smith
Pre-AP English II
Ms. Sweezey
Wednesday February 13th, 2013
In William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the character Viola is the protagonist that creates the central conflict in the play.  The conflict Viola creates is derivative of her practical and intellectual personality traits and is resolved through her patient selflessness.  In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Viola is a young woman of aristocratic birth who ended up on Illyria after her ship wrecked in a storm.  She has survived thus far because of her resiliency and her determination to live, which has served her well when she disguised herself as a man and continues to live in Illyria under the Duke Orsino.  Shakespeare demonstrates her resiliency when Viola states that “I’ll serve this Duke.  Thou shall present me as an eunuch to him” (1.2.51-2).  Furthermore, Viola is in love with her employer, the Duke Orsino, but she cannot reveal her feelings for him because doing so would risk losing her job and her disguise as a man.  Since her relationship with the Duke, in Orsino’s eyes, is purely economical, Orsino has a hard time seeing through her disguise throughout the book, which effectively contributes to the complication of the plotline and the advancement of the main conflict in the play.  Shakespeare establishes this difficulty whenever Viola tells Orsino that “My father had a daughter loved a man as it might be, perhaps, were I a woman, I should your lordship” (2.4.104-6).  The implication Viola makes to Orsino is that the daughter that loved a man is her and that the man she loved is Orsino, however, Orsino does not perceive this and his dull perceptive abilities serves to prolong the conflict of the play until its resolution.  Moreover, the main conflict expands whenever Olivia falls in love with Cesario, who is Viola disguised as a man, which leads to the complication of the conflict further entrenching Viola in a complex web of relationships with the aristocracy of Illyria that will force her to make a tough decision.  Since this conflict is a byproduct of Viola’s lies that proliferate around her disguise as Cesario, the conflict forces Viola to put down Olivia when she states that “I have one heart, one bosom, and one truth, and that no woman has, nor never none” (3.1.148-9).  Such a harsh rejection of Olivia is due to Viola’s surprise at the effectiveness of her disguise and contributes to the complexity of the conflict.  The quote serves to demonstrate Viola’s practicality, since she chooses what must be done to ensure her survival with Duke Orsino, and is evidence of her relationship with Olivia now that Viola knows Olivia’s true feelings for her. 

Works Cited
Shakespeare, William; John Crowther (2003). Twelfth Night Spark Publishing, New York.

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