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Twelfth Night And Power Dynamism: The Character Of Sebastian
As we find out from the character of Proteus in Shakespeare’s “Two Gentlemen of Verona”, the sea has transformative powers. One more of Proteus’s powers is his capability to alter shapes. In “Twelfth Night”, Shakespeare applies both themes to Viola and Sebastian. As twins, they represent two halves of a whole. Separated, they are both powerless reunited, they have the energy to control their personal destinies and break the static tension of Illyria.
The “static tension” in Illyria is most naturally manifested in the grid-locked situation of Duke Orsino’s unrequited really like for the Countess Olivia. Orsino pines for the Countess, but she is lost in mourning for her brother, and has sworn herself from the organization of men for seven year’s time. All other Illyrian characters in the play serve either Orsino or Olivia, and are hence pulled into the vacuum of their stagnant situation. When Viola is shipwrecked on the shores of Illyria and decides to disguise herself as a man, she falls into the trap. Though she loves Orsino, she can not reveal herself to him, since he believes she is a man. It is not until her brother, Sebastian, seems in Illyria, that factors commence to modify.
Sebastian’s character is surrounded by a motif of sea-imagery. The very first mention of Sebastian is in Act I, Scene II, when Viola laments for the loss of her brother. The Captain, in an try to comfort her, alludes to the mythological figure Arion: in classic mythology, Arion was a renowned musician (music is another prominent theme in “Twelfth Night”) who escaped specific death by murder aboard a ship by diving overboard, lyre in hand. Hearing the gorgeous melody, dolphins came to his rescue and carried him ashore. In Act II, Scene I, when Sebastian and Antonio are washed ashore, Sebastian refers to the sea as the power, which has separated his life from his sister’s: “[we had been] both born in an hour. If the heavens had been pleased, we would so had ended. But you sir, altered that, for some hour just before you took me from the breach of the sea my sister was drowned” (2.1.17-20).
The operative dynamic that first begins to disturb the ceaseless stasis of Illyria begins when Antonio and Sebastian are separated in Act III, Scene III. Sebastian wishes to discover the city Antonio cannot safely accompany him on the streets of Illyria, due to his involvement in a sea-fight (three.3.26). Antonio, however, is the only variable that distinguishes Sebastian from Viola, who, disguised as a man, is nearly identical to her twin brother.
In the following scene (Act III, Scene IV) Antonio errors Viola (as Cesario) for Sebastian, attempts to defend her in a brawl, and is incarcerated as result. When Viola refuses him the purse for which he implores her (and which he lent to Sebastian) he is confused and hurt by her refusal. Soon after he has gone, Viola reflects:
He named Sebastian. I my brother know
However living in my glass. Even such and so
In favor was my brother, and he went
Still in this style, colour, ornament,
For him I imitate. O, if it prove,
Tempests are sort, and salt waves fresh in really like!
In this lyrical passage, Shakespeare alludes to the changeable powers of the sea, manifested in Viola and Sebastian. Viola also foreshadows her reunion with her brother. Additionally, the dual identity of the figure that seems to be a single and the very same in Sebastian and Viola – Cesario – ignites a dynamic changeability that effects the other characters in Illyria.
The significant modifications start to happen in Act IV, Scene I, when Olivia mistakes Sebastian for Cesario. She implores him to come with her, and he responds, “What relish is in this? How runs the stream?/ Or I am mad, or else this is a dream./ Let fancy nevertheless my sense in Lethe steep./ If it be as a result to dream, still let me sleep” (four.1.58-61). As Feste articulates in Act II, Scene IV, the sea tends to make one’s destination “everywhere, for that is it that usually makes a great voyage of nothing” (2.4.76-7). The adjust here from sea to stream imagery (as in, “How runs the stream?” and “Lethe”, which is the “mythical river of oblivion”) thus implies a newfound sense of direction in the play.
This imagamatic language employed by Sebastian parallels the conceptual improvement of the plot. Now that Olivia has Sebastian to focus her attentions on, the static situation, which previously dominated, will be overthrown. Sebastian can requite Olivia’s love, a process that had been impossible for Viola, as Cesario. Also, with her brother present, Viola will be capable to reveal her accurate identity. Hence, Orsino can break off his really like for Olivia, when he realizes that really like for Viola (to whom, as Cesario, he is currently significantly attached) is feasible. Sebastian foreshadows this multitude of events as “a flood of fortune” (four.3.11).
This “flood of fortune,” eventually comes to pass in Act V, Scene I when, amidst a myriad of sea references, Viola and Sebastian’s identities are revealed, each taking on their personal shape, and dissolving the static tension. Each believed that they alone had survived the wrath of the stormy sea, while the other had been drowned. On seeing Viola, an astonished Sebastian asks, “I had a sister,/ Whom the blind waves and surges have devoured./ Of charity, what kin are you to me?” (5.1.226-eight). Viola replies, “Sebastian was my brother… /So went he suited to this watery tomb” (five.1.231-2).
By reconciling their true identities with themselves and establishing for the other characters that they are in truth two separate people, they are in a position to break the static bond amongst Orsino and Olivia. In this manner, they free the other Illyrian characters, as nicely. Feste ends the play with a song about a storm, “the wind and the rain” – the element that catalyzed the principal action in the play.
Shakespeare employs the power of the sea in “Twelfth Night” in a manner equivalent to the power of the forest in “As You Like It”. The sea has changeable, transformative powers, which enable individuals to disguise their true identities in order to ignite modify in the other characters. The characters that are brought to Illyria from the water bring with them the power of the sea. After they are reunited, that power is unlocked and it destroys the Illyrian stasis that has previously prevailed.
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