Disorder of Society in Twelfth Night

Your lord does know my mind; I cannot love him; Yet I suppose him virtuous, know him noble, of great estate, of fresh and stainless youth; in voices well divulged, free, learned, and valiant; and in dimension and the shape of nature a gracious person; but yet I cannot love him (Greenbelts, 1. 5. 234-239). ” Olivia defies the classic role of women- marriage. A marriage to the count would be most prosperous to her, as she will have the higher status and respect of being a married woman. He is a man most women would love to belong to, and yet, she continually refuses his attempts to win her over.
She is a literary foil, In many respects, for the queen, who also refused claims of love and adoration. Olav did not want to be ruled. After the death of her male relations, she found a new sort of freedom In the realization that she could make It on her own. Her social rank allowed her the chance to remain single and maintain a high standard of living. However, her position was not one that all women could claim for themselves. Single women of the time were the ones who were “singled” out as witches, and held as suspicious in the event of strange occurrences.
Acts of desperation ensue in the maintenance of independence in a world dominated by men. In an attempt to gain the love of Cesarean, who is in reality Viola, Olivia says to him, “By maidenhood, honor, truth, and everything, I love thee so, that, meager all thy pride, not wit nor reason can my passion hide (3. 1 . 147-149). ” She has overstepped the boundaries of being a demure, quietly submissive woman, as she charges forward In her passions. She has thrown all caution to the wind as she sets out to woo the “man” herself.

The role of wooing, traditionally a man’s Job, was upset by the forcefulness of this woman. In mom ways she could be considered an early feminist, as she strove to maintain her independence and identity apart from male dominance. She no longer cares what anyone may think of her rash display of passions, as she fulfills the typically male stereotypes. Olivia wanted Cesarean because he was, as Viola had put it, her “servant. ” Cesarean was not above her in any way. Olivia saw he was different, as he didn’t pine after her for her beauty, as others did.
He was young and entertaining to her way of life, and desire for freedom. Fear can cause one to question his personal decisions. When faced with the supposed wrath of Sir Andrew, and his sword, Viola said, “l shall be much bound to you fort; I am one that had rather go with sir priest than sir knight; I care not who knows so much of my mettle (3. 4. 247-249). ” Viola upended her role as a man by giving up the idea of valor and courage. She showed weakness In her society, where men are praised for courage and strength, all marks of manliness.
In her desire for peace rather than turmoil and triumph, she adheres to her being one or the other, but wavers in her ways. She does not feel a need to prove herself in any way that would needlessly place her in the face of danger. In taking on the role of a man, she has failed in respect of living up to the stereotypical male standard of courage. She would rather have revealed herself for who she really was in order to retain her life. And yet, she was not completely devoid of courage, as she was willing to face the uncertainties that could be in the event that she confessed.
Cross-dressing in Elizabethan society was taboo. King Henry VIII had established a law that people were to dress within their rank, as in his mind it was the clothes that made the man, which, in Viola’s case, the clothes did make the “man. The act of a woman dressing as a man caused people to question her character. She was often considered to be a prostitute, and when discovered, the sin was punishable with whipping, before she would be locked away in a hospital where she would be forced into hard labor. Even with this thought in mind, Viola’s desire to undergo the change and take on a manly fade won out. O that I served that lady, and might not be delivered to the world till I had made mine own occasion mellow, what my estate is (1. 2. 40-43)! ” With her male relations presumably dead, she, as a lower ranking Oman than the Lady Olivia, knew that women had no place in society, and no ability to inherit anything. She was, by law, left destitute. She admired Olive’s ability to remain single, even in accepting the ridicule of an intolerant society. Viola represents in many ways, the women followers who worshipped the queen’s ability and desire to withstand the pressures of society.
Accepted societal norms can lead to intolerance toward new ideas. “O, she that hath a heart of that fine frame to pay this debt of love but to a brother, how will she love, when the rich golden shaft hath killed the flock of al affections else that live in her; when liver, brain, and heart, these sovereign thrones, are all supplied, and filled her sweet perfections, with one self king (1. 1. 33-39)! ” Olivia is considered noble to give up a supposed desire to marry out of love for her deceased brother. These thoughts toward her devotion are in stark contrast to the thoughts toward Elizabeth l.
Because Elizabethan passion was to lead her country to peace and maintain the power, she was considered grotesque, as any woman who wielded power would have been. Had Olivia expressed an inclination award power rather than grief, she would likely have been received in a similar manner. Yet because she attributed her desire for singleness to the womanly traits of devotion and love, and in the same manner, grief, she was considered the epitome of womanly graces. Her true desire was, however, to maintain a sense of self beyond the dependence on a lording male figure.
Shakespeare seems to be praising Elizabethan desire for chastity in the same way that the count praises Olive’s love, as everything she felt was brought under the power of a single passion. Extremist attitudes attempt to permeate the high social ranks in order to gain ground. Maillot portrays the classic image of a Puritan. As Olive’s servant, he dreams of greatness, and wants nothing else than to marry his mistress. The notion is in itself absurd, as there are societal norms that would prevent such an unfortunate marriage.
Although social mobility was beginning to take place, there was still a division among the classes. It would have been quite out of place for a woman of Olive’s status to marry one so far beneath her. Yet, imagining how it would be between him and her uncle, Sir Toby thus, quenching my familiar smile with an austere regard of control You must amend your drunkenness (2. 5. 9-60, 66). ” The puritan church was considered quite prudish by many. Its legalism and disregard for all things not solemn caused such things as the closing of the theaters in London in 1596.
Maillot’s desire to gain the admiration of Olivia correlates to the desire by the Puritan leaders to gain the admiration of the nobility. In this way they hoped to gain control and wield their influence over society, including the aristocracy. For if it was on an equal level within the hierarchy, it could not be so easily disregarded as the Catholic Church had been at times, such as when Henry VIII proclaimed himself head of the church. The upset in the social hierarchy led to Million being deemed insane for thinking that he could reach these ends.
The supposed order of hierarchy can be upset through logic. Mourning the death of her brother, Olivia finds herself in a mental headlock with Fest the Fool. “Take the fool away… Do not hear, fellows? Take away the lady (1 Fest has challenged the respected status of the aristocracy, by turning the tables and claiming Olivia is the fool. In this way he has placed himself above her, taking on the role of wisdom that was reserved for the educated church and nobility. He has essentially placed her at the bottom of the hierarchy, as a commoner unable to reason for herself.
This upheaval to the order of societal norms takes place in a caravansaries pageant. Caravansaries behavior usually ensued before an ordained church holiday from a desire to break out of the cloister of decency expected in daily living and therefore breach the social barriers. Mockery of religion and the nobility took place through costume, lewdness, and focus on the negative aspects of human behavior. Such behavior was protected under the realm of carnival, Just as the fool’s behavior, at times disrespectful, was deemed appropriate under the safety of his title.
This attack on Olive’s wisdom proves to be truer than when it was first made, as she meets and falls for a woman, thinking her to be a man, and thus completing the idea that she is a fool. Titles are futile unless they are backed by the support of an equal mind. Not understanding the meaning of Sir Taboo’s words, Sir Andrew ignorantly says, “Nay, by my troth, I know not; but I know, to be up late is to be up late (3. 2. 4-5). ” Andrew is an unlikely knight. He acquired the title, and yet, he does not live p to it in the traditional sense of knighthood, nor does he abide by any codes.
He himself said that he dislikes policy (3. 2. 27). A knight, as part of the aristocracy, was groomed and educated to high standards, expected to fulfill his destiny in the circles of nobility. Andrew bears no marks of fine-breeding, groveling in the shadow of Sir Toby Belch, a poor specimen to hold as nobility. The notion of entropy plays into this tale of a society dominated by age old ideals, yet attacked by passions, brains, and whims. The idea claims that a closed system left to itself will become more chaotic as time passes.
Interestingly enough, Shakespearean setting of Lariat is, in itself, a closed system, cut off from reality by the sea, and further isolated from life by the fact that it was a fictitious place. Viola’s deception was but a single act, caused by the disorder and unbalance of the sea, and in effect, the unfairness of life. It leads to more confusion as the story unfolds, until a body finally steps in and puts a stop to it. The chaos and disorder of accepted norms and modes of life creates a dysfunctional world where nothing is as it seems. Things thought to be good in lose their value and Belch for example.
By doing this Shakespeare was making a statement that the high- born are, in reality, not so different from anyone else. They have the same tendencies, minds, and underneath the titles and finery, is essentially, the same man. Order is but a fade for Shakespeare, who had seen it upturned in a second through the Reformation, disease, wars, hunger, and difficulties of life. He had seen both parts of life, the low classes, and also experienced the life of a gentleman. He could relate to various aspects of life, which was in itself an effect of disorder, as the Elizabethan ideal was to maintain a static class structure and avoid social mobility.

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