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"Discuss some of the ways in which Shakespeare entertains his audience in Twelfth Night"

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Hannah Greenslade "Discuss some of the ways in which Shakespeare entertains his audience in Twelfth Night" Shakespeare entertains his audience in many different ways, from the complications of the main characters' love to the overtly comic schemes of others. The main method which Shakespeare uses to entertain his audience in this particular play is that of two plots, one main and one a sub-plot, interlocking with each other throughout. One of the main themes throughout Twelfth Night is that of confusion and mistaken identity. This is illustrated mainly by Viola as Cesario, confusing all of the characters into thinking that she is a man. The only people that know of her true identity (apart from the sea captain at the very beginning) are the audience. This makes it more enjoyable and entertaining for the audience as they know exactly what is going on and can see the comedy in the plot as it thickens. It is an example of dramatic irony used by Shakespeare. This links to the sub-plot of the play, that of entertainment and comic characters. This is illustrated to some extent through Sir Toby Belch; a clever character who enjoys playing tricks on people such as Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Malvolio who are less intelligent or more unaware of their humorous characteristics. ...read more.


I think this association also would have made it easier to laugh at Malvolio when he is picked on by the other characters and locked up unfairly by Olivia. She thinks he is suffering from "midsummer madness" when he goes to her in cross-gartered yellow stockings instead of his usual dark clothes and exclaims; "Let this fellow be looked to" The audience know at this point that Malvolio is not mad, that he has been tricked, but what is most entertaining about this scene is Malvolio's total confidence that Olivia knows what he is talking about when he quotes from the letter: "Be not afraid of greatness" At this point, Maria is the only one on stage to share the joke with the audience (another example of dramatic irony). Malvolio has no idea he is being made to look such a fool. Twelfth Night, like many other Shakespeare comedies, has both a main plot and a sub plot. The main plot is the story of Viola/Cesario, Orsino and Olivia and their love-triangle. Viola/Cesario outlines this for the audience after visiting Olivia for the first time: "My master loves her dearly; And I, poor monster, fond as much on him; And she, mistaken, seems to dote on me." ...read more.


Malvolio, a very serious character, being used in the cross-garter scene (a very humorous one). This accentuates the theme of opposites and rules being abolished and creates irony. Another example is using Viola, the most honest character in the play, to fool everyone by having her in disguise. This means that there are very few characters that the audience can completely trust in the play. There is a lot of confusion used in the play; making it interesting, hard to follow at times and always entertaining for the audience. There are many examples; Viola's disguise, love triangles and (particularly at the end), characters changing who they love quickly. The ending of the play is very effective. Shakespeare manages to combine the two plots for the first time by creating a humorous sense of confusion between the main characters as they discover the secrets about each other, e.g. when Olivia finds out that who she married was in fact Sebastian "So comes it, lady you have been mistook" something which until then had only been a part of the sub plot. This is satisfying and entertaining for the audience as the characters find out the things which they had had hidden from them. This coming together and the ending of the chaos is also symbolic as it represents the end of the holiday season as the rules come back into place and everything returns to normal. ...read more.

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