How is Language Used in Act 2 Scene 4 and Act 3 Scene 1 to Mislead Other Characters?


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Shakespeare’s play, Twelfth Night, is all about playing jokes on people, sometimes deliberately confusing them, and just basically having a happy time. Most the characters follow the tradition of Twelfth Night, however some do not. In Act 2 Scene 4, the tradition is not comprehensible, however, in Act 3 Scene 1, it is, as both Feste and Viola/Cesario are making jokes with one another. The selected paragraphs are where people get mislead a lot due to playing on words, double-meanings, or misunderstandings.


Act 2 Scene 4 is mostly written in poetry- which means that the scene is not funny, as it would be if it was written in prose, but quite serious and sincere. It starts off quite formal, but after Feste breaks the ice a bit with a song, Orsino and Viola/Cesario talk about whom they love. For Orsino this is not a big thing, as he talks of Olivia quite a lot, but this is the first Orsino has heard of the person Viola/Cesario loves. This is dramatic irony as the audience all know that she is in fact talking about Orsino. It is also rather comical when Orsino is mislead to keep asking questions about the person that Viola/Cesario loves. In this scene, Viola (dressed as Cesario) keeps trying to find out if Orsino could ever love anyone else if they loved him, “Say that some lady, and perhaps there is, hath for your love…” By this she means herself, which causes dramatic irony for the audience. Also, by suggesting, that maybe there could be someone that loves Orsino as much as he loves Olivia, she knows full well there is someone, and is perhaps anticipating his reaction to this thought. Later on in the scene, when talking about a daughter that her father has, she is indeed talking about herself, and after this, she says, “…perhaps I were a woman, Carrying on with the story about her “father’s daughter” she says that she “never told her love,” and again, she is talking of herself. After describing about this daughter’s love, she reveals that she is an only child (as she thinks her twin brother, Sebastian, is dead.) “ I am all the daughters of my father’s house, and all the brothers too,” but immediately after this, she realises that she has gone too far and he might figure it out, so she quickly changes the subject with “Sir, shall I to this lady?” so he has to answer the question, and cannot ponder about what Viola/Cesario has just said.


Act 3 Scene 1 is written in prose. This is because Feste always speaks in prose, as he is a very humorous, light-hearted character. From this you can tell that he likes to joke around so he might well use puns and try and mislead Viola/Cesario on purpose. It is a very jovial scene. When Viola asks Feste if he lives by the tabor, “Dost thou live by thy tabor?” she meant, “Do you earn your living playing the tabor” but Feste takes her words literally, and replies, “…I do live by the church,” meaning he lives next to the church, not lives by the rules of the church. She understands this joke straight away, and to this she answers, “Art thou a churchman?” Knowing that he is not in fact a priest, or churchman, as he is wearing a fool’s outfit. Not knowing that she got the joke, he explains the misunderstanding afterwards. Near the end of the scene, Viola/Cesario asks, “Art not thou the Lady Olivia’s fool?” meaning fool as in a jester or entertainer, but Feste, again, taking these words to another meaning, says that she doesn’t have a fool right now, “…the Lady Olivia has no folly,” and that she will not have a fool until she is married, as husbands are fools, “She will keep no fool, sir, till she be married….”


In his play, “Twelfth Night,” Shakespeare uses language skills such as puns and double-meanings to mislead some of his characters. Some see past it, but some get utterly confused. As the play is all about a period of time used for celebrating Twelfth Night,