Essay on Irony in Twelfth Night

Essay on Irony in Twelfth Night

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    Realizing that her disguise has produced unexpected results, Viola makes an allusion to the Gordon knot in order to describe the perceived difficulty of extricating herself from the confusion. Viola, in the act of reinterpreting herself as a man for the main purpose of protection, has found herself the body from which other characters can derive their own interpretations.

 

            As I am man,

            My state is desperate for my master's love:

            As I am woman (now alas the day!)

            What thriftless sighs shall poor Olivia breathe?

            O time, thou must untangle this, not I,

            It is too hard a knot for me t'untie. Viola.                                   

                                                                                    (2.2.35-40)

 

Just as easily as a soft "chev'ril glove" may be turned inside out, especially when it is pulled off to uncover the hand, Viola's position in the play, in relation to the other characters, can be seen as one that leads to a flexible play of ideas that reveal multiple meanings, contradictory or otherwise.

 

This essay will show how the ironic positions of the main characters, in relation to Viola, in Twelfth Night contribute and then undermine the comic theme of the play, and finally, with certain dramatic license, reinstate it, thus complicating positions of evaluation at certain points in the play.

 

            In Twelfth Night, one finds that the combined romantic and comic aspects of the main plot stem mainly from the theme of mistaken gender identity. In dealing with this theme, it is necessary to note that Viola's disguise as a man is assumed to be opaque by the aud...


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Grief, Karen. "Plays and Playing in Twelfth Night". Bloom (47-60).

Kreiger, Elliot. "Malvolio and Class Ideology". Bloom (19-26).

Nevo, Ruth. Comic Transformations in Shakespeare. London: Methuen & Co., 1980.

Osborne, Laurie E. The Trick of Singularity: Twelfth Night and the Performance Editions. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 1996.

Rosenberg, Marvin. "Subtext in Shakespeare". Thompson, Marvin, and Ruth Thompson, eds. Shakespeare and the Sense of Performance. Newark: U of Delaware P, 1989. (79-90).

Shakespeare, William. The Arden Edition of the Works of William Shakespeare: Twelfth Night. Ed. J. M. Lothian and T.W. Craik. UK: Methuen & Co., 1975.

Thatcher, David. Begging to Differ: Modes of Discrepancy in Shakespeare. New York: Peter Lang, 1999.

Vickers, Brian. Appropriating Shakespeare: Contemporary Critical Quarrels. New Haven: Yale U P, 1993

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