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How far do you agree with the view that Twelfth Night is a comedy where tragedy lurks just under the surface?

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Introduction

GCSE English Literature Coursework essay Essay question: How far do you agree with the view that Twelfth Night is a comedy where tragedy lurks just under the surface? Although there is little speculation as to whether or not Twelfth Night is a comedy when watching or reading the play, the majority regard the play as a comedy and not a tragedy. Purely because of the many funny scenarios that occur throughout the play, and because of the structure of the play which fits a pattern with other comedies written by Shakespeare. This structure may include: mistaken identities, separation and unification, male friendship, a clever servant, heightened tensions often within a family and multiple plots. Many of Shakespeare's comedies contain most if not all of these elements. In Twelfth Night these elements are clearly apparent which will be explored in our search to answer the question: whether Twelfth Night is a comedy where tragedy lurks just under the surface? Twelfth Night would have undoubtedly been regarded as a comedy in the Elizabethan theatre. Shakespeare obviously intends for it to be perceived as a comedy and not to be taken seriously as the subtitle suggests "What You Will", meaning the audience can perceive the play how they like. Its name "Twelfth Night" has nothing to do with the play but was named after the Twelfth Night holiday and was to be performed as part of Twelfth Night celebrations; further implying the play is to bring happiness and laughter but clearly not sorrow. ...read more.

Middle

Mal means bad or evil, as in malicious; volio means I wish or I desire, from the Latin volo. However this could be coincidence, although the imagery produced by other characters - Sir Toby for example represents the character; as a toby is a jug or a mug which resembles a fat man; belch is a burp. The characteristics of his name suit his character completely; this is the same for other characters but none have an "evil name". However I still firmly believe Malvolio is not an evil character but a grumpy pompous old man - which is how the other characters of the play saw him and so took their revenge, however his personality does not excuse the mistreatment shown towards him. This play seems more probable to be a comedy rather than a tragedy purely because of its likeable characters already mentioned. These being Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Feste - already mentioning the vital role they play in ensuring the play is regarded as a comedy. The antics of these characters define what Shakespearian comedy is all about with characters that the audience love. For their stupidity, the hilarious scenarios they create or engage in. Other than the comedy caused by the mistaken identity of Viola and Sebastian; these characters and the personalities and situations they engage in such as: devious plots, amusing disguises...single handily make "Twelfth Night" the comical masterpiece that it is regarded as today and then (Elizabethan times). ...read more.

Conclusion

Although this is the main misfortune that lurks in this dubious play there is the possibility of a much larger catastrophe with regards to the love triangle that occurs that would completely change the genre of the play from a light hearted comedy to blood ridden tragedy such as was "Hamlet" another prestigious play from Shakespeare. If ever Orsino or Olivia were to find out the Cesario is really a woman (Viola) there could be disastrous consequences. If ever Cesario was to react to her feelings for Orsino he may be angered and put Cesario in prison. However, probably the most likely "what if" scenario: if Orsino was to find out Olivia loved Cesario, Orsino would think Cesario has tricked him and betrayed him; since the whole point of Cesario visiting Olivia is to try persuade her to marry or love Orsino. There are also possible other tragedies: if Malvolio was to exert his revenge by killing Sir Toby, Feste, Fabian, Maria or Sir Andrew the play would definitely become a tragedy. If Sir Andrew realised Sir Toby had been manipulating and using him, he may declare revenge on Sir Toby and possibly on Olivia thinking if he can't have her no-one can. In conclusion I certainly agree with the statement that "Twelfth Night" is a comedy where tragedy lurks just under the surface which has been thoroughly proved throughout this essay by the fact that there are elements of tragedy but just not enough for the play to make people think its' a tragedy. 1 ...read more.

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