“Be That Thou Know’st Thou Art”

“So full of shapes is fancy/ That it alone is fanciful.”                                                   -Orsino

“O time, thou must untangle this, not I./ It is too hard a knot for me to untie.                  -Viola

“Dost thou think because thou art virtuous there shall be no more cakes and ale?”            -Sir Toby

” She never told her love, but let concealment, like a worm i’th’ bud, feed on her damask cheek. She pined in thought, and with a green ans yellow melancholy she sat like patience on a monument, smiling at grief.  Was this not love, indeed?”                                   -Viola, as Cesario

“We men may say more, swear more, but indeed out shows are more than will; for still we prove much in our vows, but little in our love.”                                                            -Viola, as Cesario

“This fellow is wise enough to play the fool…”                -Viola

“Some are born great, some acheive greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”               

                                                                                                              -Malvolio, from Maria’s letter

“Nothing that is so, is so.”                                                         -Feste

Be that thou know’st thou art, and then thou art as great as that thou fear’st.” 



“Be that thou know’st thou art, and then thou art as great as that thou fear’st,” echoes in my mind. It perfectly depicts Olivia and Orsino’s self-centered attitudes in Twelfth Night. Both think that they know themselves very well, and show an unwillingness to both look at themselves from another’s eyes or look at others rather than themselves. At the play’s beginning, Orsino is continually commenting about his feelings, how much he loves Olivia, how miserable he is, etc. Is that love? Is it not rather self-infatuation?

But Olivia is also infatuated with herself. She refuses Orsino’s attentions, which is not indicative of selfishness, but her reasons for doing so do seem to be. She is very proud.  It takes Viola to show these two how selfish they really are. Viola’s listening, her willingness to see both sides of the matter, not simply her own (although she is working towards her own ends), enables her to make friends of both, and likewise completely changes their worlds. Instead of loving Olivia, Orsino ends up loving Viola. And instead of loving Cesario (Viola), as she thinks she is, Olivia ends up loving Sebastian.

The characters of Orsino and Olivia also are very inconstant. Orsino is more inconstant than Olivia because he deliberately chooses to be, yet Olivia is inconstant with her whole confuse love affair with Viola/Cesario/ Sebastian, although it is not knowingly done. Still though, one could argue that, had she paid more attention to Cesario instead of herself, she would have noticed the differences in Sebastian’s voice, attitude/emotions, display of those emotions, etc.

Although she shows the appearance of undergoing the most change, Viola is the most constant character of the play, besides Antonio. She changes her physical appearance, but she remains true to Orsino, in that she continues to do his bidding even at her own cost, and she also tries to be fair and true to Olivia.


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