Play within a play?

Is this another play within a play?  

We saw in A Midsummer Night’s Dream that there was an actual play inside a play, but I found what I believe to be a play within a play in Twelfth Night as well.  Is this a common theme within Shakespeare’s plays?  

There are many things going on in this play but the one thing that sticks out in my mind as I continue to read this play, is how much time some characters have to play jokes on other characters.  Toby who is continually drinking and partying is at the center of each joke within this play.  There are two jokes played but the second one seems like a play within the larger play.  He is making Viola and Sir Andrew into his puppets.  He is controlling them, speaking for them, portraying their actions and making  them act in a way they would not normally act, all for his own entertainment “So soon as ever thou seest him, draw, and as thou drawest, swear horrible, for it comes to pass oft that a terrible oath, with swaggering accent sharply twanged off, gives manhood more approbation than ever proof itself would have earned him” (3.4.157). With this joke he is bringing the lower and upper classes together.  He is playing with the traditional love ritual – the duel.  The fact that he wants these two “men” to fight this duel in the name of love is absurd.  The pretended duel is fought over Lady Olivia, whom Cesario (Viola) has rejected and who is not even aware of the foolish Sir Andrew’s intentions.  

But why is he so entertained by controlling other people and causing drama that doesn’t need to be there?  Is he just so unhappy with his life that he is trying to achieve a better one through his puppets?  I believe that he controls Sir Andrew and wants him to marry his niece so that he can make her his puppet as well.  I believe that he chooses his puppets based on the fact that they are easily persuaded and easy to control.  Both Viola and Sir Andrew young and very impressionable.  While he may be part of a noble family he does not have anything to show for that except his name.  Maybe his play is to help him gain property to boost his sense of being.

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One thought on “Play within a play?

  1. jacobic1

    Reblogged this on Shakespeare I and commented:

    I agree, the disguise gives the characters “the opportunity to display a side of them that they weren’t able to previously”. I would even include the characters that do not go into disguise physically, like Sir Andrew, when talking about mask, what is behind it, and how it is perceived.

    When preparing for the duel with Viola/Cesario Sir Andrew also takes on a character, puts on a mask. Sir Andrew seems rather shy in nature and overall appears as a weak person. He now should mimic the brave warrior in the duel – a role that should help him to conquer Olivia’s heart. How Sir Andrew’s disguise should look like can we see in how Sir Toby describes him to Cesario (3.4.209-215).

    I also agree with your statement: “Who they pretend to be is greatly influenced by who they are.” Once Sir Andrew exercises his “role-play”, we can observe, that the strong character he pretends to be does not suit his personality, and his behavior seems ridiculous, as we can see in his conversation with Sir Toby right before the duel (3.4.271-275).

    Reply

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