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For all the resolutions between some characters, the ending of the play leaves too many characters unhappy and alone. How far do you think Twelfth Night succeeds as a comedy in the light of this statement?

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For all the resolutions between some characters, the ending of the play leaves too many characters unhappy and alone. How far do you think Twelfth Night succeeds as a comedy in the light of this statement? When one considers the convention of the Elizabethan romantic comedy, a light-hearted tale of love in which obstacles are overcome- often to resolve with a marriage, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night certainly challenges the convention. Although the resolution of the joining of three couples: Orsino and Viola; Olivia and Sebastian and Sir Toby and Maria satisfies the criteria for a romantic comedy in some way, the bizarre nature in which some of these relationships come about makes the audience question the likelihood of their successes. In addition, Shakespeare leaves an open dénouement in that the amorous outcomes some characters (Malvolio, Antonio and Sir Andrew) are negative- being left alone or unresolved. The melodramatic manner in which Orsino muses over Olivia at the very start of Act 1 seems to suggest that the unrequitedness of love is more for comedic value rather than a valid representation of true love and thus cannot be taken seriously. Orsino’s hyperbolic soliloquy of his love, “give me excess of it, so that it may sicken and so die” and later the pun of “was I turned into a hart, and my desires, like fell and cruel hounds, e'er since pursue me” support this as this painful love is unbelievably developed seeing as he hardly knows Olivia and one could say he is in love with the chase of Olivia- the challenge. ...read more.


utter devotion spoken of when Antonio says ?if you will not murder me for my love, let me be your servant,? whereas in Twelfth Night, the most conventional love, that between Orsino and Olivia, is the least realistic- and Antonio?s for Sebastian the most. Antonio?s loving actions juxtapose with the disingenuous fancifulness of Malvolio?s mere speeches of love- proving Shakespeare?s intent for the construction of a more genuine homosexual love. Antonio expresses his love beyond words- offering Sebastian his purse for the eventuality that his ?eye shall light upon some toy [he is] willing to purchase.? This selfless sacrifice of something necessary to Antonio for the mere materialistic pleasure of his beloved is quite representative of their quite one-sided relationship of servitude. When Cesario is mistaken for being Sebastian, fitting in with the recurring theme mistaken identity, the intensity of Antonio?s passion is revealed. His feelings of betrayal and solitude are not, however, resolved with the revelation that Cesario is not in fact Sebastian, as shortly after, before Antonio can even think of having Sebastian to himself, he is engaged to Olivia. As Laurie E. Osborne puts it, Antonio?s final predicament ?gives us at this moment an image of loss that it can do little to assuage, since at the end Antonio finds Sebastian only to stand silently by, watching him commit himself to Olivia.? Also, earlier in the play, Sebastian?s ?my kind Antonio, I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks; and ...read more.


The Humanistic revival of the Renaissance Era makes it highly likely that Shakespeare was conscious of this allusion in his production of the play. Feste brings the play to its dénouement with his dejected song, repeating the line “for the rain, it raineth every day” encapsulating the dark, serious undertone of the play-without which it could be easily interpreted as a resolved, conventional romantic comedy, although Feste’s song reminds the audience that not all characters are left happy and fulfilled. The fact that Feste, a mere “fool,” gets the concluding lines of the play highlights the transposition of social roles which is an important part of the Twelfth Night festival on which the play is based. Feste, contrary to his title of the “fool” is also one of the wisest characters, and thus has the power to see and tell beyond the play’s superficially happy plot. To conclude, I believe that the characters which are left “unhappy and alone” are usually characters used by Shakespeare to be laughed at as opposed to sympathised with- with the subtle exception of Antonio, who is meant to send a more serious message to the audience over sexuality, thus succeeding as a comedy, yet one which deviates from the conventions of its time. Considering the alternative title of the play, “What You Will,” perhaps a conclusion can be drawn that Shakespeare wants us to make what we will of the ending, using an open dénouement whose continuation is to be interpreted as being cheerfully comedic or sombrely serious. ...read more.

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