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Yet, she tells us, “I my brother know yet living in my glass”; her reflection in a mirror now looks like her brother.She makes up for the loss of her brother by taking on a male persona patterned after him—trying to be both, a psychological behavior of a surviving twin which Shakespeare may have even witnessed in his own daughter.By the time Shakespeare came to write , however, his young son had died.
This dual gender presents a quandary to Viola—as desire and gender expectations fail to align.
“As I am a man, “ she tells us, “ my state is desperate for my master’s love.
When s/he arrives, Cesario has a set speech, a rehearsed part that s/he plans to deliver to Olivia in an effort to win her love for Orsino.
It’s not until Cesario goes off-script, speaking as him/herself that Olivia is moved.
Twelfth Night was the final celebration of the Christmas season (as in “The 12 Days of Christmas”); the day was celebrated with parties and performances and involved a temporary subversion of status, as whoever acted as the “lord of misrule” could act as king for the night and tell everyone what to do.
The play’s second title is perhaps the one closer Shakespeare’s intention as it embraces more of the story: “What you will” or “What you want or desire.”We do not choose whom we love—and that means that love can inspire more questions than answers at times.
Is it her “youthful” possibly feminine aspects that draw Olivia to her?
Are her masculine attributes necessary for Orsino to form an emotional connection to this new, chosen confidant?
As dramaturg Alison Carey notes, nearly every scene in this play opens with a question or a comment about wanting or wondering or both. ” “If music be the food of love, play on,” etc.) The question “why can’t you love me back? Questions of desire, love, and loss come from a deep place in this story—and I think that has something to do with Shakespeare’s own experience.
Shakespeare was the father of twins, a boy and a girl, and perhaps this is why he embraces notions of twins and twinning so obviously in his plays.