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Analysis of Voila's Speech in Twelfth Night

This study will provide a critical analysis of the speech of Viola from Act II, Scene 2, lines 17-28. Viola is puzzling over her meeting with Olivia. Viola had posed as a male servant to Orsino, the Duke of Illyria, and went to express the Duke's love to Olivia. However, Olivia once again spurns the Duke's love, as she had done a number of times previously. Instead, Olivia is taken by "Cesario," who is in fact Viola in the disguise of a young man. Malvolio, the steward of Olivia, returns to Viola a ring which Olivia says Viola had left, apparently as a token of the Duke's love for Olivia. But Viola has left no ring, and she is puzzled by the meaning of this returned ring. Viola, musing to herself after the exit of Malvolio, concludes that Olivia has, indeed, begun to fall in love with her (Viola) who had been in the guise of Cesario.

Twelfth Night, above all, is a comedy, a comedy of romance, so we would be well advised to approach Viola's speech as an expression of romantic comedy and not profound philosophy about human nature. At the same time, in almost every speech of any length, Shakespeare has something interesting to say about human behavior and relationships, however lightly comedic the play itself in which the speech appears. Viola's speech is no exception. The play is about deception, illusion, and especially self-deception. Shakespeare is saying that human beings generally see what they want to see and don't see what they want to see. They want to feel pleasure and they seek the experience of love in order to feel such pleasure. Shakespeare is certainly not condemning this human frailty in the play at hand, but he is making it clear that such frailty is at work in the play.

Viola is puzzled by the return of a ring which she did not give to Olivia in the first place. Viola is perhaps considering that the ring is a gift to her (as "Cesario") from Olivia. In any case, she clearly concludes that Olivia is strongly attract...

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Analysis of Voila's Speech in Twelfth Night. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 07:49, February 28, 2017, from