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Analysis of Comedy in Act 3 Scene 4 of Twelfth Night

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Introduction

Analyse the comedy in Act 3 Scene 4 of 'Twelfth Night' Shakespeare's romantic comedy 'Twelfth Night' involves deception, trickery and love, typical themes in Elizabethan drama. This theme of romance intertwined with comedy is suggested by the title which implies that a play set in the Christmas season is going to be full of love, happiness and celebration. The literary tradition of an Elizabethan comedy would involve many techniques to make the audience laugh, such as a convoluted plot, mistaken identity, disguise, comic characters and verbal humour. 'Twelfth Night' is no exception to this. Its main theme is love but the path to true love is not simple for any of the characters and involves certain 'love triangles', where Orsino thinks he loves Olivia, who loves Cesario (Viola), who is in love with Orsino. Added to all this is the complication of Sir Andrew Aguecheek being spurred on by Sir Toby to woo Olivia and Malvolio having a trick played on him which makes him believe that his mistress, Olivia loves him. Many of these plots and sub-plots come to a head in Act3 Scene 4 in a very comic manner. Malvolio provides much of the visual humour in this scene. Olivia sends for him on a serious matter, saying: 'Where's Malvolio? He is sad and civil, And suits well for a servant with my fortunes:' The audience would be full of anticipation at this point as Malvolio has been told in a letter supposedly sent to him by Olivia to smile a lot more, something which is totally against his usual character. ...read more.

Middle

It is comic irony that Olivia is unaware of Sir Andrew's love for her and has been rejected by Cesario, so really there is no point in the duel in the first place. The actual preparation for the fight is almost slapstick, especially when Antonio comes running in to take Cesario's place. The confusion that arises here is humorous, as it is funny to see Antonio confusing Cesario for Sebastian at the same time as Sir Toby would be mystified by who this stranger is. Fabian and Sir Toby then add another part to their joke by convincing Sir Andrew that Cesario is a coward and has run away. They want him to follow and 'cuff him soundly', which is funny because Andrew had previously been against the duel because he thought he would be beaten, but now that he thinks he has a chance of winning he is suddenly full of valour. The situation is becoming completely absurd at this point, something that the audience would find very amusing. Another form of comedy running throughout the play is cross-dressing. Audiences in Shakespearean times would find it funny to see a man acting the part of a woman pretending to be a man. This is because all parts in those days were played by males, with female roles being played by boys before their voices deepened. The fact that there is so much pretence involved makes it doubly ironic. It would be funny to see Viola, a woman, being asked to duel by Sir Andrew and being so scared that she is almost tempted to reveal her disguise. ...read more.

Conclusion

At the end of the scene, there is still comedy, but a hint of seriousness. If this were a tragedy, then things may well have turned out differently but as it is a comedy, we know that everything will be all right in the end. There is a hint of how these problems will be resolved in this Scene. For example, when Antonio asks Cesario for his purse, thinking that he is Sebastian, he is taken aback when he claims to not have it. When Antonio is then arrested, we are reminded that things could actually go down hill. However, Viola realises that her brother may be alive so we know eventually Sebastian will have to be mistaken for Cesario to resolve the confusion. Even though the trick on Malvolio was very funny at the time, it could have led to him becoming mad and being left in the dark room forever. The audience can even begin to feel sorry for Malvolio as the joke may have gone too far. Some people have even said that the situation with Malvolio is not completely resolved, as on his final exit he says that he will have his revenge. 'I'll be reveng'd on the whole pack of you!' In spite of this, it can be said that Shakespeare never meant for the audience to feel sorry for Malvolio, and that he deserved to get his comeuppance, so there is no need for him to have a happy ending. Still, the other characters were never unpleasant, so deserved to have happy endings. As the title suggests, we know that in the celebration of 'Twelfth Night,' all will be resolved. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

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