The Dramatic Importance of Act 1 Scenes 1 and 2 of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

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The Dramatic Importance of Act 1 Scenes 1 and 2 of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

The title 'Twelfth Night' seems to suggest that Shakespeare, who wrote

the play around 1602, wanted it to be performed on the twelfth day

after Christmas; the festival of the Epiphany. This day formally

marked the end of the Christmas season, which at the time was

celebrated as a special festival. In addition to eating, drinking and

generally over indulging, the performance of plays was a common

feature on this day. He may have written this romantic comedy whilst

keeping this festive spirit in mind. The title therefore may have had

some bearing on the actual plot or characters. The secondary title

'What You Will', suggests that the play has something of interest for

everyone and it also reflects the theme of excess. This title is

appropriate, as this theme is apparent in some of the characters,

particularly in terms of their longings and desires.

'Twelfth Night' was the last of Shakespeare's 'mature comedies', the

other two being 'Much Ado About Nothing' and 'As you like it'. Like

most of Shakespeare's other plays, this play does not have an original

plot. It has many elements that were common to Elizabethan romantic

comedy, including the devices of mistaken identity, separated twins

and cross-dressing disguises. The plot revolves around overcoming

obstacles to true love. It also features a sub-plot, which deals with

how a self inflated and arrogant character is humiliated and brought

to his knees. Unlike his earlier comedies, Shakespeare looks at the

concept of love and themes such as insanity and madness of love, which

were not parts of the conv...

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...ods were not


From a dramatic viewpoint, I think that the two scenes analysed here

are pivotal to the play and generally seem to achieve their objectives

well. As well as identifying the main theme of the play of how

complications of love often arise from disguises, which may hide one's

true intentions, these scenes also provide the means of how these

difficulties get resolved in the play. Although the atmosphere in the

scenes is quite melancholic, the audience can clearly sense the

potential for comedy. The title 'Twelfth Night' perhaps also relates

to this, as there would have been some sorrow as it was the last day

of the Christmas festivities. However the subsequent scenes of the

play establish its comical aspects, particularly through the use of

the sub plot and the introduction of other characters.
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