What are the main themes in this monologue by Viola in Twelfth Night?
I left no ring with her. What means this lady? Fortune forbid my outside have not charmed her! She made good view of me, indeed so much That sure methought her eyes had lost her tongue, For she did speak in starts distractedly. She loves me, sure! The cunning of her passion Invites me in this churlish messenger. None of my lord’s ring? Why, he sent her none. I am the man. If it be so, as ’tis, Poor lady, she were better love a dream. Disguise, I see thou art a wickedness, Wherein the pregnant enemy does much. How easy is it for the proper false In women’s waxen hearts to set their forms! Alas, our frailty is the cause, not we, For such as we are made of, such we be. How will this fadge? My master loves her dearly, And I, poor monster, fond as much on him, And she, mistaken, seems to dote on me. What will become of this? As I am man, My state is desperate for my master’s love. As I am woman, now, alas the day, What thriftless sighs shall poor Olivia breathe! O time, thou must untangle this, not I. It is too hard a knot for me to untie!
This important monologue is delivered by Viola at the end of Act II scene 2 as she has just had a ring delivered to her by Malvolio that he claims she tried to leave with his mistress, Olivia. When she thinks about this confusing occurrence, Viola suddenly realises that Olivia has fallen in love with her outward disguise as Cesario. This speech can be used to support two of the key themes in this wonderful comedy.
The first is that of appearances vs. reality. Cesario does not in fact exist. Viola is trapped inside her disguise, and fate has decreed that Olivia falls in love with her male disguise. The irony of this situation is not lost on Viola, who says "She were better love a dream" and feels pity for Olivia. This situation also however is rather cruel for Viola, for she is trapped by her male disguise, and just as she is unable to declare her true feminine identity and try to win the love of Orsino, so she is unable to reveal herself to Olivia to relieve her suffering.
Secondly, note the way that love causes us to suffer. From the very start of the play, when we see the love-sick ramblings of Orsino, love is something that causes us pain and consternation. Olivia, in her "distracted" expressions, shows the way that love conquers our judgement and reason, leaving us open to pain and suffering as a result. Because of her love, Viola anticipates Olivia engaging in "thriftless sighs" that will cause her pain. Where love is, the play seems to suggest, suffering will not be far behind.