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How does Shakespeare create and use comedy in the play Twelfth Night?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare create and use comedy in the play Twelfth Night? Twelfth Night is a play written by William Shakespeare to be performed on stage. It was written at around 1600 and about half way through Shakespeare's career as a playwright. The first recorded production was given at the Hall of the Inner Temple, London in 1602. The play is known has 'Twelfth Night' because it was originally performed on the twelfth night of Christmas. The play was not officially named, but has a subtitle of 'Or What you Will' meaning whatever you want to call it. The play has many of the elements common to Elizabethan romantic comedy, including the devices of mistaken identity, separated twins, and gender-crossing disguise, and its plot revolves around overcoming obstacles to "true" love. The play uses many concepts of comedy and there are two main plots in the play, the main love plot and a comic sub-plot. The romantic main plot is based around confusion and mistaken identity. There is a love triangle at the centre of all the chaos. The three characters involved in the triangle are Orsino, Viola and Olivia. Viola loves Orsino, Orsino loves Olivia and Olivia loves Viola. Although all three of these characters claim to be in love only Viola is actually in love. ...read more.

Middle

Both go and try to find love instead of love finding them. Shakespeare uses contradiction and mistaken identity (Olivia loving a female). The plot concerning Malvolio and the letter from Olivia is seen just as a comic sub-plot to that of Viola, Olivia and Orsino's love triangle. But just as that plot contained interesting characters and ideas and thoughts from Shakespeare, so does this one. The whole saga begins with the miserable servant of Olivia, Malvolio, interrupting a party held by Olivia's drunk of a cousin Toby in Act 2: Scene 3. After this Sir Toby Belch (his surname 'Belch' basically describes his character) Maria, and a fool named Sir Andrew Aguecheek devise a plan to plant a letter written in Olivia's writing for Malvolio to find, read and then ridicule himself beyond belief. Malvolia initially seems to be only a minor character in the play but as the play progresses he becomes more and more interesting. When we first meet him we see that he is a stiff and proper servant who likes nothing better than to spoil other people's fun. It is this reputation that Sir Toby and the clever Maria do not like and so therefore decide to play a cruel trick on him. ...read more.

Conclusion

Shakespeare also uses dramatic irony. This is when the audience know more than the characters on stage. An example of this is when the audience know that the letter is forged but Malvolio dresses in yellow stockings and cross garters but Olivia is baffled, 'Malvolio Remember who commended thy yellow stockings,'- Olivia 'Thy yellow stockings'? Malvolio 'And wish'd to see thee cross-garter'd.' Olivia 'Cross-garter'd'?' Mistaken identity is a device which Shakespeare uses a lot in this play and forms two plots upon it. The main plot, where Viola is mistaken for a man and Olivia marries a man she has never even met before in Sebastian, and the comic sub-plot where Malvolio pretends to be somebody that he is not. This combined with dramatic irony is the funniest device Shakespeare uses in the play. Shakespeare also plays on words a lot in this play, or uses a pun, an example of this is in Act 1: Scene 3 line 18, 'He's as tall a man as any's in Illyria.' This is used by Sir Toby to describe Sir Andrew meaning he is a good fellow but also it could me he is actually tall and that is all that he has to offer. The puns are used a lot throughout the play mainly in the comic sub-plot. Also throughout the play there is a lot of reference to sex which Shakespeare used in a lot of his comedies in order to get a laugh. ...read more.

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