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Discuss the Theme of Deception in Act One of Twelf

The theme of deception runs very strong in Act One. Almost all the characters seem to either be deceiving someone, or being deceived themselves.

Orsino is the first deceiver we meet. He is also being deceived, by himself. He is fooling himself by believing that he only has to tell a woman he loves her, and she will fall in love with him. He is in love with the idea of love itself. He is so infatuated with love, he makes parallels about love. He says it is that same as music and flowers. He then continues the parallels and makes the connection about love being the food of life. Without it, you would be needing the ‘hearts and flowers.’

That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour.

He is so obsessed with love, that a servant motioning a hart, meaning animal, Orsino attempts a long winded pun.

Orsino’s language is highfalutin, and long winded. He believes that this is the language of love, but when he attempts to use it to win the love of Olivia she is disgusted with it, as she knows that it is only Orsino’s ego that makes him believe that he loves her.

It is the more like to be feigned; I pray you keep it in.

Viola is a very pragmatic, shrewd woman. She does not deceive her self in the way Orsino does. After the Captain tells her that her brother may be alive, she rewards him with gold, and then goes on to question the Captain about the land she is in. She realises that she must do something to survive, and instead of morning about the death of her brother, she takes practical steps.

for I can sing,
And speak to him in many sorts of music.

Viola, as Cesario, manages to win the favour of Orsino He truly believes that she is a he. Orsino, still convinced of my majesty, believes that he can win the love of a woman, via a proxy. By having Viola merely read the words he has prepared, he thinks that Olivia will fall immediately in love with him. But while Orsino had his head in the clouds about his love, Viola is attempting to conceal from him, her love for him.

Sir Toby is tempting to deceive Maria that Sir Andrew is a great man. But his description is full of mockery – he says one thing but means another. Sir Toby calls Sir Andrew ‘tall’, when he probably means cowardly. But Sir Toby is deceiving himself if he thinks that he is enjoying a private joke. Maria is a sharp character, and gets the joke. She knows that Sir Andrew is indeed a fool, and he is flattering himself to think that Olivia could love him.

Sir Toby tricks Sir Andrew into staying purely for the money he is taking from him. Sir Toby is very quick, being able to talk Sir Andrew into staying in just three lines.

She’ll none o’th’count; she’ll not match above her degree, neither in estate, years, nor wit. I have heard her swear’t. Tut, there’s life in’t man.

Olivia is supposed to have a vow, in which she is not going to remove her veil for seven years, but upon seeing Viola, as Cesario, she promptly removes her veil. She obviosly does not value her vow that highly.

By T. Jones

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