Comedy in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night Essay example

Comedy in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night Essay example

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Comedy in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

'Twelfth Night' is the only one of Shakespeare's plays to have an
alternative title: the play is actually called 'Twelfth Night', or
'What You Will'. "Twelfth Night" is usually considered to be a
reference to Epiphany, or the twelfth night of the Christmas
celebration. In the Elizabethan times this holiday was celebrated as a
festival in which everything was turned upside down, much like the
chaotic world of Illyria in the play. Disguise is crucial to the plot
of the play. It is the thread which runs through the play from start
to finish and holds it all together. Yet, paradoxically along the way
there are many problems, deceptions and illusions, which creates
comedy for the audience.

Viola's plan for disguising herself in Act 1 scene II introduces one
of the central parts of the play: disguise and the identity confusion
related to it. Similarly, Orsino's mournful speech in Act 1, scene I
lets us know that the play will also concern matters of love: emotion,
desire and rejection. Put together, the two scenes suggest the extra
twist that is the highlight of 'Twelfth Night', mistaken gender
identity and Viola's gender deception leads to all kinds of romantic
complications.

Meanwhile, Viola's decision to disguise herself as a young man in
order to find a job seems somewhat improbable. Surely this isn't
necessary; even if Orsino only hires young men. However Viola's act of
disguising herself generates an endless number of interesting
situations to advance the plot. We can interpret Viola's disguise as
something that makes the unprotected young woman feel safer in the
strange land i...


... middle of paper ...


...nce the truth about Viola's womanhood comes out, the
uncertainty that her disguise has raised remains. For instance,
Orsino's declaration of love to Viola is strangely phrased. Continuing
to address Viola as if she were male, he says, "Boy, thou hast said to
me a thousand times / Thou never shouldst love woman like to me". The
ending is not simply cut and dry, and entirely happy. Although Orsino
closes the action of the play with an optimistic statement about the
"golden time" they are all about to enjoy, the play ends with a
prologue song by Feste that mars the possibility of a completely happy
end. Though this play is a comedy, with a great deal of light hearted
wordplay and amusing situations, the audience must remember that the
play, like life, is bittersweet; some people come to happy endings,
other people do not.

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