Life is never as it seems. Shakespeare shaped the modern human language and through his plays and poetry offered insight to the human existence. Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” offers the audience a chance at enlightenment and slowly develops into a commentary on what is acceptable in light of false pretenses. The play “Waiting for Godot” cannot be taken for face value just as the characters of “Twelfth night” are not as they appear. These characters wait for the infamous Godot to cure their problems. Both plays shed light on what it means to be human and preach that all is not as it seems.
Viola is the character in “Twelfth Night” who sirs up trouble for herself and others by disguising herself as a man. The act of a woman becoming a man shows the deviance of her character. Deception is not uncommon in this play as other characters indulge in creating double personas as well. The Fool is another example. The Fool acts in accordance to his own wishes and does not miss a chance to perform mischief. The Fool impersonates a priest to fool Malvolio in jest. What is designed as a simple prank against Malvolio turns sour when he is imprisoned, in jest, on claims that he has been consumed by a devil. In reality, his tormentors, Maria, Sir Anthony, and Sir Tony Belch, are the ones consumed by the devil’s work of greed and revenge.
The human drama is exaggerated in this play.All is presumed well until the arrival of Antonio and Viola’s twin brother. Again, confusion sweeps the scenes as Viola is mistaken for her bother. When all is said and done, there is a twisted happy ending as all characters receive their fates. Love happens instantaneously and some characters are perceived as less intelligent for comedic effect. The irony occurs when the female Viola is almost more attractive as a man and the Fool is the smartest individual in the play. All is not what is seems as proven by the characters’ deception.
Likewise, in “Waiting for Godot” the characters take on the appearance of humans but in fact represent so much more. This play defines the human existence. Life is repetitive as are much of the dialog and actions of the characters in the play. The two main men, Vladimir and Estragon, go to the same spot every night and wait on the man Godot to appear. They believe that he can solve all their problems. And so they return every day, ever alert to their surroundings, but still unable to move and construct their own fate. The failure to act differently rings true to all humanity. Many of us swarm as ants do, going about our day-to-day lives. It seems that over and over we repeat much of the same activities. Jobs require waking up at the same time and the same repetitive tasks completed. Unfortunately we are caught in the same patterns as Vladimir and Estragon. We as humans are all creatures of habit, but we fail to recognize the patterns of our existence and take a hammer to what we see as our current beliefs. Failure to see beyond the illusions of this life is failure to see the world for what it really is, shiny and still new. With the existence of faith, we do not recognize all that appears directly in our paths. What makes our friends our friends? Are we all still waiting for Godot?
“Twelfth Night” by Shakespeare and “Waiting for Godot” have taught me to examine what lies beneath the surface of life. We all think our brains are whirling with facts and figures while our faith in humanity and acceptance of these facts blind us from what truly exists. These plays have taught that the there is never a simple answer to any complex problem. Why is a tree called a tree? The short answer is that the language is pure convention. Shakespeare was one of the first to not wait for Godot. He broke the pattern of the repeated dialog:
“We are waiting for Godot.”
Through these plays, we are encouraged to see beyond our noses and view the world as a grand opportunity to make a difference. Life is never as it seems.