EN 101. 16
November 20, 2013
Putting Disguises Aside
The first two acts of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night or, What you Will and the lecture I attended by Doctor David Stovall all address what it means to truly know yourself and accept who you are. In Twelfth Night or, What You Will we are introduced to a host of melodramatic characters whom all are working to impress one another but never truly take care of themselves and look into who they are. They all believe the cause of their problems is external, and occasionally it is. However, for the most part, the cause of the hosts of issues in this play is the character themselves and their various quirks and ignorance to change. The play and the lecture both also touch upon the subjects of ambitions and dreams. Dr. Stovall gave interesting advice to future educators when he said that if you aspire to make changes and help the people you teach, you must make sure you are helping for them and not for you or the whole process will never succeed. The various characters in Twelfth Night or, What You Will display in Acts I and II that they do not understand their own ambitions and this will ultimately lead to their failure.
Right from the beginning of the play we meet one of the eccentric lead characters, Duke Orsino. The play opens with the Orsino stating the line “ If music be the food of love, play on” but this statement is quickly refuted when only a few lines later he exclaims “Enough; no more: ‘T is not so sweet now as it was before” (Shakespeare, 1). These first few lines said by Orsino give us a direct look into his dramatic, off the wall personality. It seems to be no surprise that Orsino insists on pursuing Lady Olivia even after she has stated she will not love him for at least seven years at best. Despite this obvious shut down, Orsino continues sending various servants instead of addressing the problem himself. This proves to be his ultimate downfall when he sends Viola, disguised as a man, to speak to Olivia. Not only does Olivia make it even more clear that she is not interested in Orsino when she states “Your lord does know my mind; I cannot love him” she finds a new love interest from this exchange-Viola herself (Shakespeare, 16). If Orsino truly loved Olivia for who she is as a person and not who she is as a status symbol, he may have had a chance with her. However, his motives were skewed and he will have to pay the price for it when his most loyal servant becomes his fiercest competition.
Orsino is not the only character in the play with dreams and ambitions that fall short. Viola believes that in disguising herself as a boy, she will get an automatic in with the Duke and have a good and steady life in Illyria. Despite the good intentions behind her choice to disguise herself, we quickly see what the consequences of his type of deception. In disguising herself Viola has access to the Duke which she wanted, but she becomes infatuated with him and even mentions that she wants to be his wife. These feelings can never be acted on firstly because of her disguise, how will she explain to the Duke that she has been lying to him this whole time? He will be angered and feel betrayed. Secondly, in being this fake male servant she becomes the Duke’s messenger to the person he truly loves. She has put herself at a great risk for hurt and disappointment all because she could not be honest with the others around her.
Doctor Stovall’s lecture on education, particularly in lesser fortunate areas, had some related themes to those seen in the first two acts of Twelfth Night, or What You Will. One of the most important things that I took from his lecture was that people in education have the power to make great changes in their community, but first they most understand that community, and most importantly themselves and their role within this community. This connects to the idea of having no disguises in your life, particularly about the person you are and the values you have. Much like the lesson Dr. Ellis gave us on one of the first days of class, Dr. Stovall was essentially saying don’t serve people because you think you have to or that it will look good, but because you truly want to. Dr. Stovall admitted that he often gets uninvited from places because of his strong opinions, but I found his approach effective. He said that there needs to be less talk of change and less theories on education and more action on the ground with the communities in need. He was telling many of the future educators in the room to have ambitions more about the collective and less about themselves which I think can be applied in many fields.
Lastly, one of the most important things I took from this class was the importance of being able to critique and analyze quickly and effectively. The skills I have learned in this class about keeping my writing more simple and to the point have helped me greatly in all of my classes and have led to me making adjustments on papers and essays outside of English. I have learned to analyze in depth and communicate clearer and more concisely.