Shakespeare’s The Twelfth Night

This well known story is about mistaken identities and revealing one’s true identity to the Beloved. Shakespeare was a deeply spiritual man who understood the Soul’s longing for God and knowing him/herself in God.

I am going share my understanding of the story from a spiritual perspective.

Let  me start with an extract from a talk that says “Because first, you have to come into union with yourself before you can now move into union with God. That polarity of where the two become one, the uncrossing of the wires, is where you come into union with yourself where the polarities within you, the male-female, are harmonized. And in that balance is that place of honoring and loving that then frees you now to go on the greater journey of the soul now moving into union with God.” Source: ilm.org It  made me think … first, then, I must embrace who I am, in the totality of who I am, every single bit of me, the parts I admire about me as well as the parts that I feel ashamed of.  As a result of that union, then, I can look to God and come into union with Him/Her.

In my understanding, The Twelfth Night is the story of the Soul coming to terms with his/her own true identity. First realizing it then expressing it. Viola starts her new adventure dressed as a boy, in disguise. Until she reveals herself, her real personality to her Beloved, her Love cannot be consumed.

Well, I know, it is easier said than done. The phrase ‘I love and accept myself just as I am’ stays completely empty until I dare to look within; until I dare to see all the dark, the shameful, and all the rotten parts of me that I want no one to see. In order to become aware of them, however, I must observe them. Then, I can come to understand them. Finally, I can embrace them. Though, it sounds like a simple concept it is actually a matter of life. This is the journey of self- and God-discovery. It unfolds daily, in every inter-action I have with both myself and others. In these interactions, I can see my insecurities; my fears; the way I defend the fantasy of who I am and what my life should look like; the way I keep the world at bay; and how I condemn myself for all that I fail to accomplish.

Who I am in God (my Essence, or my True Identity – choose what works best for you) can only be revealed to me when I have come to terms with who I am not. It does not stem from a sense of rejection but it is the result of me embracing me. It can, however, only happen, when I step out of the realms of fear.

Twelfth Night Summary
Viola, separated from her twin Sebastian, dresses as a boy and works for the Duke Orsino, whom she falls in love with. Orsino is in love with the Countess Olivia, and sends Viola to court her for him, but Olivia falls for Viola instead. Sebastian arrives, causing a flood of mistaken identity, and marries Olivia. Viola then reveals she is a girl and marries Orsino. Source:

As a mentioned previously, the story of the Twelfth Night is about mistaken identities. Like Viola, we all put on a mask of a ‘different’ identity in order to protect our wounded self. The Enneagram describes the characters of these ‘mistaken’ identities that we adopt in order to fend ourselves from assumed harm very clearly.

At the beginning of the play, everyone is at loss and in pain. They all experience a sense of separation and the pain. Their focus on a different subject that cause them torment. All four characters embark on a journey of discovery and recovery from their ‘sad’ self to a loving one. They all change focus from fear, loss and unfulfilled desires to a source of true love by following guidance.

The journey to our Beloved, the source of all Love, is arduous because it requires us to peel off the many layers of falsehood and allow our wounds and sore spots to be seen, particularly by ourselves. As the science of the Enneagram explains it, the journey takes us to discover who we are not, at first, then as we release our falseness, our higher nature is revealed to us that eventually permits us to engage in the act of Love.

The journey of loving intent blesses us with rewards, too. As we bravely release the false identity piece by piece, our Essence becomes apparent and with that our basic desire is fulfilled: we are loved in very practical terms. It appears differently to each of us. Finally, in Love we are complete and flawless. As the song says ‘we were once lost but now we are found’.

Eventually, Viola (still disguised as Cesario) and Orsino make their way to Olivia’s house, where Olivia welcomes Cesario as her new husband, thinking him to be Sebastian, whom she has just married. Orsino is furious, but then Sebastian himself appears on the scene, and all is revealed. The siblings are joyfully reunited, and Orsino realizes that he loves Viola, now that he knows she is a woman, and asks her to marry him. We discover that Sir Toby and Maria have also been married privately. Finally, someone remembers Malvolio and lets him out of the dark room. The trick is revealed in full, and the embittered Malvolio storms off, leaving the happy couples to their celebration. source

At the end of the story, all who were willing to take a risk for love and let go, received his/her reward. And those where were not, they had to leave the Paradise of Love.

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