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The Dramatic Importance of Act 1 Scenes 1 and 2 referring to other parts of the play wherever appropriate ('Twelfth Night')

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Introduction

The Dramatic Importance of Act 1 Scenes 1 and 2 referring to other parts of the play wherever appropriate The title 'Twelfth Night' seems to suggest that Shakespeare, who wrote the play around 1602, wanted it to be performed on the twelfth day after Christmas; the festival of the Epiphany. This day formally marked the end of the Christmas season, which at the time was celebrated as a special festival. In addition to eating, drinking and generally over indulging, the performance of plays was a common feature on this day. He may have written this romantic comedy whilst keeping this festive spirit in mind. The title therefore may have had some bearing on the actual plot or characters. The secondary title 'What You Will', suggests that the play has something of interest for everyone and it also reflects the theme of excess. This title is appropriate, as this theme is apparent in some of the characters, particularly in terms of their longings and desires. 'Twelfth Night' was the last of Shakespeare's 'mature comedies', the other two being 'Much Ado About Nothing' and 'As you like it'. Like most of Shakespeare's other plays, this play does not have an original plot. It has many elements that were common to Elizabethan romantic comedy, including the devices of mistaken identity, separated twins and cross-dressing disguises. The plot revolves around overcoming obstacles to true love. It also features a sub-plot, which deals with how a self inflated and arrogant character is humiliated and brought to his knees. Unlike his earlier comedies, Shakespeare looks at the concept of love and themes such as insanity and madness of love, which were not parts of the conventional romantic comedy formula. The first few scenes of any play are important. As well as providing details about the setting, outlining the main theme and winning the audience's attention, they generate questions in the audience's mind, which are resolved as it unfolds. ...read more.

Middle

Even Viola in Act 2 scene 4, where she is referring to herself through use of a 'fictional sister', is shown to be yearning for someone. Often the characters' desires are coupled with frustration as they long for something that they can't have. Shakespeare makes use of this device to introduce further complications in the plot. Music plays an important part in Shakespeare's plays. Its use in this scene further adds to the dramatic effect. It seems to feed Orsino's love, particularly when he states that 'if music be the food of love play on'. This scene therefore helps to establish Orsino's attitude to music and this is built on in other parts of the play. In Act 2 scene 4, Orsino asks for a particular piece of music to be played and says that 'methought that it did relieve my passion much'. This shows that he uses music to help soothe his moods. Also when he says that 'more than light airs and recollected terms of these most brisk and giddy-pac�d times' seems to imply that he uses music to escape into another world or time. This also shows that he prefers the old song in comparison to the fast music of the time as it reminds him of a by gone era and it helps him to escape to this golden age in his imagination. Again in Act 2 scene 4 the lyrics from Feste's song directly reflect Orsino's character in that it is a melancholic song about a person dying from unrequited love, which mirrors Orsino's love for Olivia. The song also conveys Orsino's love sickness when Feste sings 'I am slain by a fair cruel maid'. The song draws parallels to his detachedness from the world when it goes on and refers to 'not a friend greet' and 'not a flower sweet'. This song has a strong effect on Orisno, as after listening to it, he immediately orders Cesario to go and woo Olivia for him. ...read more.

Conclusion

In Act 1 scene 4 the Duke describing Cesario says 'all is semblative a woman's part', is likely to make the audience laugh, as they know that Cesario is really a woman. There is also some dramatic irony in Act 1 scene 5 where Viola/Cesario says 'I swear I am not that I play'. Further dramatic irony related to the above is provided in Act 3 scene 1. At the beginning of the scene Feste says 'send thee a beard' to which Viola/Cesario replies 'I am almost sick for one'. This would create laughter in the audience, as it is another reminder of her disguise. Shakespeare creates further irony when Olivia and Viola/Cesario are talking to one another. This results in fast one line responses between them and it reminds the audience of the difficult position that Viola finds herself in. Therefore it can be seen that most of the comedy that results in subsequent parts of the play is a direct consequence of scene 2 of Act 1, thereby further demonstrating its dramatic significance. The main moment of pathos created as a result of Viola's disguise occurs in scene 4 of Act 2, when the duke refers to women as roses and Viola adds 'to die, even when to perfection grow'. This is very poignant as it makes the audience sympathise with Viola. Like the rose she has grown to perfection, but as she gets older and as her beauty starts fading, her chances of winning Orsino's heart are being reduced. Therefore her disguise is not allowing her to use her assets while she has them. A further moment of pathos in this scene is generated when Viola uses a fictional sister to describe herself as 'a blank, my lord she never told her love'. This further emphasizes that her disguise is stopping her from telling Orsino about her love for him. The phrase 'she sat like patience on a monument' is personification and it creates a very sad image of Viola in the audience's mind. ...read more.

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