Twelfth Night Tools Of Characterisation

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  • Created by: Megan96
  • Created on: 04-11-13 21:22


What's in a name? A whole lot. Sir Toby Belch, the beer-guzzling party guy, is named after the noisy expulsion of gas from the body through the mouth. Gross or, hilarious, depending on your personality. In fact, Toby is kind of like a great, big, walking belch – he's noisy, explosive, obnoxious, and associated with excessive drinking and eating.

Toby's drinking buddy, Sir Andrew Aguecheek is also associated with bodily excess. "Ague" means "violent fever," which implies that Andrew's face or "cheek" is super red. At one point, Toby even makes a crack about the way Aguecheek's face is always flushed (because he's drinking 24/7).

Our girl Viola shares her name with the stringed instrument. The name is fitting, given that Viola's got a great set of pipes and disguises herself as a singing ****** (a castrated man with a high-pitched voice).

Valentine's name is also pretty appropriate given that he's Duke Orsino's original love messenger, the one who delivers sappy notes to Olivia before "Cesario" is given the job. We sort of love it that the first time we see Valentine in Act 1, Scene 1, he's delivering some not-so-loving news to Orsino – Olivia's not interested in the Duke, at all.

Speaking of unloving, let's talk about the name "Malvolio," which literally translates to "ill will." This pretty much sums up the way the character rides through life on a high-horse, criticizing just about everyone around him and raining on the play's parade.

Sex and Love

A person's love life can reveal some pretty significant information. In Twelfth Night, ****** desire is one of the most important tools we have for assessing character. But, before we go any further, it's important to note that Elizabethans didn't view sexual identity in black and white terms (homosexual vs. heterosexual), as is often the case today. The fact that characters like Duke Orsino and Olivia are both attracted to "Cesario" (a boy actor, cross-dressed as a female character, who is disguised as a young boy) doesn't necessarily imply that the characters are gay or straight or even gullible, for that matter. Critics of Twelfth Night have shown that Elizabethans would have seen the male and female characters' attraction to the androgynous "Cesario" as completely normal.

Duke Orsino claims to be totally into Olivia. But, when Orsino shares one of


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