Twelfth Night

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Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Twelfth Night, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon

Characters in Twelfth Night constantly disguise themselves or play parts in order to trick those around them. Some of the most notable examples of trickery and role-playing in Twelfth Night are: Viola disguising herself as the page-boy Cesario; Maria and Sir Toby playing their prank on Malvolio; and Feste dressing up as the scholar, Sir Topas. More subtly, Orsino's rather clichéd lovesickness for Olivia and Olivia's just-as-clichéd response as the unattainable mourning woman bring into question the extent to which these characters are just playing these roles, rather than truly feeling the emotions they claim to be experiencing.

Through the constant performance and role-playing of his characters, Shakespeare reminds us that we, like the characters, may play roles in our own lives and be susceptible to the role playing of others.

Deception, Disguise, and Performance ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Deception, Disguise, and Performance appears in each scene of Twelfth Night. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Deception, Disguise, and Performance Quotes in Twelfth Night

Below you will find the important quotes in Twelfth Night related to the theme of Deception, Disguise, and Performance.
Act 1, scene 1 Quotes
If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die. (1-3)
Related Characters: Orsino (speaker)
So full of shapes is fancy
That it alone is high fantastical. (14-15)
Related Characters: Orsino (speaker)
Act 1, scene 3 Quotes
I would I had bestowed that time in the tongues, that I have in fencing, dancing and bear-baiting: O, had I but followed the arts! (85-87)
Related Characters: Sir Andrew Aguecheek (speaker)
Act 1, scene 4 Quotes
Thy small pipe
Is as the maiden's organ, shrill and sound,
And all is semblative a woman's part. (32-34)
Related Characters: Orsino (speaker), Viola (Cesario)
Act 1, scene 5 Quotes
He is very well-favored and he speaks very shrewishly; one would think his mother's milk were scarce out of him. (149-151)
Related Characters: Malvolio (speaker), Viola (Cesario)
Lady, you are the cruell'st she alive
If you will lead these graces to the grave
And leave the world no copy. (224-226)
Related Characters: Viola (Cesario) (speaker), Olivia
Make me a willow cabin at your gate
And call upon my soul within the house;
Write loyal cantons of contemned love
And sing them loud even in the dead of night;
Halloo your name to the reverberate hills
And make the babbling gossip of the air
Cry out 'Olivia!' O, You should not rest
Between the elements of air and earth
But you should pity me. (251-259)
Related Characters: Viola (Cesario) (speaker), Orsino, Olivia
Act 2, scene 3 Quotes
My purpose, indeed, is a horse of that color. (158)
Related Characters: Maria (speaker)
Act 2, scene 4 Quotes
Let still the woman take
An elder than herself: so wears she to him,
So sways she level in her husband's heart:
For, boy, however we do praise ourselves,
Our fancies are more giddy and unfirm,
More longing, wavering, sooner lost and worn,
Than women's are. (28-34)
Related Characters: Orsino (speaker), Viola (Cesario)
Then let thy love be younger than thyself,
Or thy affection cannot hold the bent. (35-36)
Related Characters: Orsino (speaker)
Viola: My father had a daughter loved a man,
As it might be, perhaps, were I a woman,
I should your lordship.
Orsino: And what's her history?
Viola: A blank, my lord. She never told her love,
But let concealment, like a worm i' the bud,
Feed on her damask cheek: she pined in thought,
And with a green and yellow melancholy
She sat like patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed? (105-114)
Related Characters: Viola (Cesario) (speaker), Orsino (speaker)
I am all the daughters of my father's house
And all the brothers too. (119-120)
Related Characters: Viola (Cesario) (speaker)
Act 2, scene 5 Quotes
Now is the woodcock near the gin. (78)
Related Characters: Fabian (speaker), Malvolio
I may command where I adore. (98)
Related Characters: Malvolio (speaker)
Be not afraid of greatness: Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em. (130)
Related Characters: Olivia (speaker), Malvolio (speaker)
Act 3, scene 1 Quotes
This fellow's wise enough to play the fool,
And to do that well craves a kind of wit. (57-58)
Related Characters: Viola (Cesario) (speaker), Feste
Love sought is good, but given unsought is better. (153)
Related Characters: Olivia (speaker)
Act 3, scene 4 Quotes
Go hang yourselves all! You are idle shallow things; I am not of your element. (113)
Related Characters: Malvolio (speaker), Maria, Sir Toby, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Feste, Fabian
If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction. (118-119)
Related Characters: Fabian (speaker)
Act 5, scene 1 Quotes
Give me thy hand
And let me see thee in thy woman's weeds. (264-5)
Related Characters: Orsino (speaker), Viola (Cesario)
Why have you suffered me to be imprisoned,
Kept in a dark house, visited by the priest,
And made the most notorious geck and gull
That e'er invention played on? Tell me why. (331-334)
Related Characters: Malvolio (speaker), Olivia