William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night or, What You Will, and Oliver Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest explore the relationship between identity and love. In Twelfth Night Viola pretends to be Cesario, she falls in love with the Duke her employer, while her male alter ego catches the eyes of Olivia, whom the Duke is in love with. In The Importance of Being Earnest, Jack the main character pretends his name is Earnest, so Gwendolen will marry him. Over the course of the play Jack’s secret is brought to light, but soon he finds out his name was Earnest all along. Both Shakespeare and Wilde use theatre to explain how superficial things, like a name, can play such a large role in deep relationships.
Twelfth Night, a story that details a lady who pretends to be a man, and in the process interrupts a Duke’s fantasy over a noble woman named Olivia. Ultimately a love triangle forms, Olivia loves Viola who loves the Duke, while the Duke is obsessed with Olivia. Eventually, Viola’s secret comes out, which parallels Wilde’s play where Jack pretends to be Earnest. Eventually, it comes out that Jack is not Earnest, which influences his relationship with his fiancé Gwendolen. The idea of a name or an identity affecting a relationship illustrates how little superficial things alter deep relationships.
Wilde and Shakespeare want us to realize that superficial titles don’t make us the people we are it is more our personality. In the case of Viola after the Duke trusts her she should reveal her true identity but she doesn’t, which digs her hole deeper. The same goes for Jack who continues to perpetuate the lie that his name is Earnest. Both Jack and Viola’s secrets come out, and teach us that lying about one’s identity never helps. However, due to Jack and Viola’s character they maintain their relationships even though they lied.
Shakespeare and Wilde teach us that identity should not be important in a relationship, rather one’s character should matter most.