Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mistaken Identities Are Not Always Mistakes

One of the most common themes or plot devices in Shakespeare's plays is that of mistaken identities. Obviously, there is an immediate opportunity for comedy when one person is mmistaken for another. Then there are the instances where one person puts on a disguise and deliberately tries to mislead others.

Why was this such a popular theme? Perhaps because dreaming of being someone else is such a common concept?

Invisibility is one of the powers that people most often fantasize about having. The ability to see the world from another perspective, to find out how others view them, to be able to go places that they might not be allowed to go in ordinary circumstances.

How does it feel to be wearing mask and costume at a party and have others not know who you really are? Wearing a disguise is one of the oldest ways to be hidden in plain sight. While others are guessing who you are, you can act in ways very different than your ordinary self, try on another persona to see how you like being a very different person. During this brief interlude you can get a small taste of what it might be like to live a different life.

Another aspect of disguise and other identities is the ritual use of costumes and masks, which is really quite similar in nature, except that it is done with a different purpose in mind. From the ancient tribal days when people would don an animal skin and a head dress and dance before a hunt to the modern priest putting on a robe, a business person putting on a suit, an athlete putting on a team uniform, soldiers wearing a military uniform, or someone getting sexily dressed up to go out dancing, these other identities serve their purpose for a brief period of time. When the ritual, game, business meetings, or dance are over, we change back into our usual clothes, and we act differently again.

Mistaken identities are not always mistakes. They can reveal our inner self and our inner desires. Sometimes the impressions we give others are unintended, and other times, they contain a great deal of forethought, conscious or unconscious.

Have you ever had someone tell you that you look especially good today? That is just a glimpse of you revealing another aspect of your personality. Have you ever felt that you could do more when you were dressed in a certain way? That is one of the ways in which the external aspects of costuming, masking, or "suiting up" encourages us to rise to the occasion.

Mistaken identities are not always mistakes.

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