November 20th, 2013
The Head On Approach
William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night comically depicts a classic love triangle, where everyone involved isn’t quite sure who is who and what is what. Viola, fresh with emotion over the loss of her brother, disguises herself as a male servant to enter the servitude of Duke Orsino. Through this act of deception she is able to gain the Duke’s trust, who then uses her as a courier to win over the heart of Lady Olivia. While the major theme that runs throughout the play is that of mistaken identities and deception, it also shows us the effects of lying and the mess it can create. Both this play, and my service every week, are trying to teach that lying often only makes things worse, and that by facing any situation head-on it can be solved.
In Act I Viola quickly comes up with her plan to, “conceal me what I am, and be my aid for such disguise as haply shall become the form of my intent.” Viola is a highly independent and strong willed woman, which is part of the reason she is quickly able to adapt to her new situation. However she does not consider the long-term affects of her plan, as she wishes for the Duke to fall in love with her through lies. The situation is more complicated when the Duke sends Viola to proclaim his love for Lady Olivia, “yet, a barful strife – Whoe’re I woo, myself would be his wife” when it is really her she wants him to fall in love with. Attempting to have the Duke fall in love with her through lies will most likely fail her, as the Duke will only really get to know Cesario not Viola. When something is initially based off of a lie, its makes it that much harder to bring the truth out, as first impressions are typically some of the longest lasting.
Additionally, the Duke himself practices some form of deceit as he continues to send messengers to Lady Olivia in place of himself. Asking those he sends to “be clamorous, and leap all civil bounds, rather than make unprofited return” the Duke says to ignore any social norms there may be as long as you come back when Olivia loves him. Olivia does reject the Duke though, but since it is merely a messenger who tells him this, the rejection doesn’t feel real and he merely sends the next messenger. If the Duke had been told off directly it would have been much more disappointing, but most likely he is not ready to deal with the rejection. However, by going himself his love for the Lady would also be much more real to her, as she see’s who he really is and that he is not just hiding behind those he sends to her so often. If the Duke faces the situation head-on and makes it his burden then the rewards he desires will likely come, but the defeat will also be much worse. Shakespeare is trying to tell us though that no matter how hard it may be you must take the risk of being rejected and put everything you have into the situation, by never trying you’ll never succeed.
Everyday throughout my service experience I witness the young Pre-K kids going through these exact situations. They have not yet learned the negatives of lying, and use simple defenses such as tears or running away to avoid any issues they may have caused. Even when you see them do something wrong, their first instinct is always to try and deny it was them, or to blame it on someone else. When they get in trouble, it’s much easier to cry or go sit to the side of the gym than to face the situation head on. This however is just the nature of kids, and they can’t be blamed for it, but they must be taught how to act different. While it will likely take a few more years for all of them to realize these lessons and have them set it, you need to start as early as possible. Just as the play shows us, deceitful actions never lead to good results and they will almost always affect someone.
The idea of service was actually quite a shock to me when I first came into this class, as I had no clue what a service learning class was or that this was one. But I’m extremely glad that it was and that I took the opportunity to make the most of it. It has been the only class this year that has tried to invoke a sense of community, which is great. Not only by expanding horizons and learning about our surrounding Baltimore community, but also a sense of classroom community. In most classes I only get to know those around me or those who I work with on projects, but this class stressed that we all participate and get to know as many names as possible as we are all in it together. Both of these were surprising to me, but I think it was the best way to approach to course, as everyone has their own thoughts or ideas as to what different short stories or poems mean to them. Just as in Twelfth Night it’s always best to be honest and face the realities from the beginning, helping to form a community, which I feel we did our best to accomplish.