William Shakespeare 's Twelfth Night Essay

William Shakespeare 's Twelfth Night Essay

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Twelfth Night revolves heavily around the shipwreck plot device to split apart the siblings Viola and Sebastian, leading to the development of a bizarre love-triangle and a case of mistaken identity. Besides the rather literal importance of the sea as the driving force for the play’s plot, water appears to resonate as a recurring theme throughout many scenes; specifically, it becomes a living representation for the emotional status of various characters, and woven within the ebb and flow of the tides, qualities such as fate, grief, death (imagined or real), and reflection churn amongst the brackish waters of the play’s symbolic ocean. Of course, because Twelfth Night fails to meet definition of a tragedy outright, these elements will not lead to a dark or unfortunate resolution for any of the main characters– instead, they simply provide a serious backdrop for the absurd, comedic events occurring throughout the play (i.e. Malvolio’s abuse at the hands of other characters, crossdressing as a secondary plot device, and reunification/resolution with marriage).
The first explicit reference to the uncertain fate of Viola’s brother occurs relatively early in the play’s plot development – Viola’s statement (“perchance he is not drowned: what think you sailors (1.2.5)”) indicates her hope in the remote possibility of her brother’s survival, but the captain’s reply to her query suggests that her own rescue was rather lucky. In an attempt to assuage her worries, the captain assures Viola that her brother was “most provident in peril (1.2.12)” and “[held] acquaintance with the waves (1.2.16)” – in other words, he did not drown as long as he remained in the captain’s sight, and his actions in this time of peril could be thought of as valor...


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...of others until the end of his life. The line “And we’ll strive to please you every day (5.1.402)” also breaks the fourth wall, providing a final moment of meta-theatrical commentary.
Even though Twelfth Night is a formulaic Shakespearean comedy with a predictable ending, it manages to incorporate a surprising level of emotional depth and range in its admittedly clichéd focus – this emotion is represented by water, and it takes form in the “salty brine” of tears, the swirling eddies of ephemeral love, the “rain” of life’s gradual futility, and the crashing waves of despair. At its core, it is meant to be a love story and a tale of reconciliation between two long-lost siblings, but it still manages to find time for philosophical musings (i.e. Feste’s final speech) and black comedy (Malvolio’s victimization), allowing it to stretch beyond the limitations of the genre.

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William Shakespeare 's Twelfth Night Essay

- Twelfth Night revolves heavily around the shipwreck plot device to split apart the siblings Viola and Sebastian, leading to the development of a bizarre love-triangle and a case of mistaken identity. Besides the rather literal importance of the sea as the driving force for the play’s plot, water appears to resonate as a recurring theme throughout many scenes; specifically, it becomes a living representation for the emotional status of various characters, and woven within the ebb and flow of the tides, qualities such as fate, grief, death (imagined or real), and reflection churn amongst the brackish waters of the play’s symbolic ocean....   [tags: Love, Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare]

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