When the question about if the Twelfth Night can be viewed as a comedy, the answer is simple: sure it can. This work appears as a comedy written between the years 1601 and 1602 by a playwright named William Shakespeare. The famous creator uses eleven characters namely Sebastian, Viola, Olivia, Malvolio, Maria, Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, Duke Orsino, Feste, Antonio, and Fabian, which pass across his message. The setting of the Twelfth Night appears as Illyria that is aimed to give the importance of romance in the story. The play is like a reference to the twelfth night after Christmas day. This specific day happened to be a Catholic holiday. This was seen as a season where the servants would dress up as their masters while the men would be dressed as women. The women would also be dressed like the men. These features are the first characteristics of the aforementioned play’s genre. Therefore, the paper will discuss the Twelfth Night’s belonging to comedy by arguing its main distinct attributes applied by Shakespeare’s genius and clarify the role of comic elements for the play’s perception.
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Hence, in the play, Shakespeare drives the point of confusion when he portrays a woman (Viola) dressed as a man (Cesario). Nevertheless, when Olivia and Viola (Cesario) first meet, Olivia asks, “Are you a comedian?“ and Viola answers, “I am not that I play.” This encounter shows comedy or plays within a play. The Twelfth Night happens to be seen as a comedy. Even though many might argue that it is not so, but there are instances of humor in the play that qualify it as a comedy. The main point appears as the existence of a clown character in the play. This man named Feste is portrayed as a fool or a clown who happens to bring humor in every scene he appears in. Every word coming out of his mouth is viewed as a comedy one. For instance, when he had disappeared, and Maria asked where he had been or she would tell the master. He answered, “Let her hang me: he that is well hanged in this world needs to fear no colors” (Twelfth Night; or, What You Will 1.5 32). During the same conversation with Maria, he also uses other humor by saying, “Well, God give them wisdom that has it; and those that are fools, let them use their talents” (Twelfth Night; or, What You Will 1.5 33).
Again after Maria has left and Olivia enters to find the clown, Olivia addresses the latter by saying, “Go to, you’re a dry fool; I’ll no more of you besides, you grow dishonest” (Twelfth Night; or, What You Will 1.5 40). To this, the clown answers:
Two faults, madonna, that drink, and good counsel will amend: for, give the dry fool drink, then is the fool not dry: bid the dishonest man mend himself; if he mends, he is no longer dishonest; if cannot, let the botcher mend him. Anything that’s mended is but patched: virtue that transgresses is but patched with sin, and the sin that amends is but patched with virtue. If that this simple syllogism will serve, so; if it will not, what remedy? As there is no true cuckold but calamity, so beauty’s a flower. The lady bade take away the fool; therefore, I say again, take her away (Twelfth Night: Entire Play 1.5 20).
In the Twelfth Night, Shakespeare portrays Viola as shipwrecked in Illyria but manages to get ashore with the help of a captain. To Viola, her twin-brother appears dead. This happens so because she has totally lost contact with him. Therefore, she decides to pretend to be a man going by the name of Cesario. Because she had a twin brother, on disguising herself as a man, she completely looks like her lost brother. The captain who helped Viola get ashore from the ship wretch also helps her to join the Duke Orsino’s service. Another lady, Olivia, who had a tragedy of losing both her father and brother, appears to be in Duke Orsino’s life. Duke Orsino believes that he has completely fallen in love with Olivia. However, she refuses to be associated with any man including Duke Orsino until after seven years pass. She does this claiming that she still mourns for her dead brother and father for at least seven good years. Olivia proves difficult for Duke Orsino who then decides to involve the help of Cesario. Duke Orsino believes Cesario appears to be a man then decides to use him to profess his undying love for Olivia. Nevertheless, the irony comes about when Olivia sees Cesario and immediately falls in love with him while Cesario, who is Viola, in fact, falls for her slender, Duke Orsino.
In Olivia’s house, there is a steward named Malvolio. A plot convinces Malvolio that his boss Olivia has fallen for him. However, this is only a plot for revenge against Malvolio. It started when Olivia’s uncle and Sir Andrew have been drinking in Olivia’s house until late hours. This drinking causes disturbance of the peace in the house forcing Malvolio to chastise the drinkers. They include Sir Toby, Olivia’s uncle, Sir Andrew, Maria, Fabian, and Feste. After the sending out, angrily, Sir Toby says with anger, “Dost thou think, because of thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?” (Twelfth Night: Entire Play 1.3. 35).
The feeling of anger and annoyance forces them to plot revenge for Malvolio. They secretly write a love letter, written by Maria who used Olivia’s handwriting, believed to have come from Olivia to him. They then plant the letter in a place that proves easy for the steward to find. In the letter, Malvolio is told to adorn in yellow stockings, address other servants rudely, but while in the presence of Olivia, to constantly smile. On finding the letter, Malvolio becomes so excited and immediately begins to do as the letter says. He wears yellow stockings and becomes rude to the other servants, but when he sees Olivia, the smile on his face broadens. Nonetheless, this sudden change in Malvolio’s behavior shocks and surprises Olivia, and his new state convinces everyone that he has lost his mind. He afterward is locked in a dark chamber; thus, the revenge appears complete. Nevertheless, Feste begins to mock Malvolio’s insanity by visiting him in the dark chamber dressed as a priest. Malvolio learns of the revenge plot and really becomes angry and runs away promising to carry out a revenge plot of his own for what was done to him. However, Duke Orsino quickly sends Fabian to pacify Malvolio.
In another event, a man named Sebastian appears in the scene. He has also been rescued from a ship wretch by a sea captain named Antonio. Sebastian is Viola’s twin brother whom she believed had died. Therefore, his arrival in Illyria brings a lot of confusion. Beforehand, Olivia had fallen in love with Viola whom she believed was a man named Cesario. Therefore, thinking that Sebastian is Cesario, Olivia asks the former to marry her. Sebastian agrees, and they get married secretly.
However, more confusion arises when Sebastian and Viola disguised as a man appears before Olivia and the duke. The similarity between the two wonders everyone. Finally, Viola decides to come clean and declare that Sebastian happens to be her long lost twin brother believed to have been dead.
Shakespeare ends the play in a way that Duke Orsino and Viola arrange for their marriage while Sir Toby, Olivia’s uncle marries Maria, Olivia’s gentlewoman. The love triangle then finally comes to an end when Viola reveals the truth that she is indeed a woman and not a man as earlier known. Additionally, the truth that Cesario does not exist comes out. Viola reveals that all along, she had been in love with the duke but could not say a word because she was disguised as a man. The most especially, the duke had been in love with Olivia and even sent her to talk to Olivia on his behalf.
To conclude, the Twelfth Night’s belonging to comedy through arguing its main distinct attributes applied by the playwright has been proved in the essay. Many illustrations of this special author’s literary technique have been presented above. For instance, the roles of females playing male characters bring a lot of humor in Shakespeare’s work: Viola pretends to be a man, Olivia falls in love with this seeming man, etc. Furthermore, comic revenge to Malvolio is another example of comedy characteristic of the play among others. Thus, comic situations are of the key role in the plot’s development and its denouement. The numerous funny episodes are embedded into play by the creator to make the audience not only laugh but provoke to think about their own actions and deeds.