How does Shakespeare use mistaken identities in Twelfth Night?

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Mistaken identity is central to the plot of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. When Viola washes to shore in Illyria in act 1, scene 2, she believes her twin brother has died in the shipwreck they were both in and assumes his identity, both because it will be safer for her to appear to be a man than an unaccompanied woman and in order to gain employment with Duke Orsino. Her disguise leads to the central love triangle of the play: Olivia, mistaking her for the man she is masquerading as, falls in love with her, while Orsino, also believing her to be a man, is oblivious to the fact that she has fallen in love with him.

Viola's famous monologue in act 2, scene 2, beginning "I left no ring with her, what means this lady," centers on the theme of mistaken identity as Viola becomes aware of Olivia's misplaced affections, saying,

Poor lady, she were better love a dream.

Disguise, I see, thou art a wickedness,

Wherein the pregnant enemy does much.

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rhymes | Student

the identities are those of the desgiused fellas

 

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