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In what ways do you consider Twelfth Night to be more than simply an entertaining comedy?

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Shibdeep Kaur Sekhon 17th December 2002 In what ways do you consider Twelfth Night to be more than simply an entertaining comedy? On one level Twelfth Night can be seen as an elegant, charming and perfectly constructed comedy. It moves from a potentially tragic situation of a shipwreck and the loss of "A brother's dead love" into the joyous realm of romantic comedy where three couples happily celebrate marriages. However, the play can also be interpreted as one with troubling undertones, as there is a philosophical aspect, which considers issues such as revenge, importance of love and personal identity. In considering the play on a superficial level it can be said to have all the major conventions of Shakespearean romantic comedy. The main action is about love but Shakespeare explores several types of love in the play. These include: sibling love, unrequited love, love between friends and secret, concealed love. The theme of Orsino's unrequited love for Olivia is introduced at the beginning of the play. "If music be the food of love, play on." ...read more.


This line is a reminder to the audience that the greatest love, like life will also end. In my opinion this reference to aging could also refer to Shakespeare plays. This is because Twelfth Night was one of the last plays with the genre comedy. Twelfth Night is also a play with troubling undertones. For instance Malvolio is tormented by Feste unnecessarily Feste treats everything Malvolio says as a remark of a madman. "Why, it hath bay windows transparent as barricades, and the clerestories toward the south-north are as lustrous as ebony; and yet compain'st thou of obstruction?" At this point the comedy clearly becomes sinister as the audience begin to sympathise with Malvolio, Characters such as Malvolio, Dir Andrew and Antonio can be seen as outsiders in the play. This is because throughout and at the end of the play, they are excluded from the all round happiness. Where as every other character at the end of the play has a partner of some type, they are left alone. Sir Toby uses Sir Andrew for his money but the last time they speak to each other, Sir Toby insults Sir Andrew. ...read more.


This line is an example of how Shakespeare uses dramatic irony to catch the essence of Twelfth Night, that appearances are deceptive. Viola is a boy, acting a girl, acting a boy and Malvolio is acting the part of a deluded lover. Feste's final lines in his closing song acknowledge that the audience watched the play. "But that is all one. Our play is done, / And we'll strive to please you every day." The song is sung in a sombre tone and is a reminder to the audience that the play shouldn't be taken seriously. This is evident as the words "all is one" are a reference to the Elizabethan equivalents of "I couldn't care less." From my viewpoint, one of the key points Shakespeare tries to make in the play Twelfth Night is how easily people can be fooled by appearance. Act Four is a good example of this. The play also relates very much to the concept of love. It expresses most types of love and shows possible outcomes. Generally however, it is my opinion that as the play was originally aimed at the Elizabethan audience in the Elizabethan time period, there would be a difference in perspectives, opinions and understanding of the modern audience. ...read more.

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