The Secrets Of Comedy In The Topsy Turvy World Of Twelfth Night

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Have you ever felt that your everyday dose of comedy and chaoticness just couldn’t get any better and anymore chaotic? Well, I can assure you that that is the most absurd lie you have ever said in your life! The Shakespearen romantic comedy play Twelfth Night not only is upside down but they celebrate chaoticness especially comedy despite their ever-lasting worries about love. Shakespeare’s comedy are generally identifiable as the comedies of Shakespeare in that they are full of fun, irony and dazzling wordplay. Shakespeare uses comedy as the main tool to balance out the melancholy characters and atmosphere of the play while also developing and reminding the audience of the true meaning and significance of the title of the play, Twelfth Night.

In various storylines, the predominant figure of comedy is considered to be a fool; in Twelfth Night the main licensed fool, Feste, and other foolish characters in the play form a magically diverse balance between various elements of the play which contribute to creating a clear definition of the title Twelfth Night in the play. It is undeniable that the comedic characters establish an astounding role in Twelfth Night as they give the readers an amusing break from the melancholy characters and atmosphere. The licensed and professional in the play, Feste, reminds Olivia who was drowning in the sea of anguish that mourning over her brother in such a state makes her more of a fool than him, the fool. When Olivia assuredly states, “I know his soul is in heaven, fool.”(1.5.63). Therefore Feste helps her realize her futile actions as he responds, “The more fool, madonna, to mourn for your brother’s soul being in heaven.” (1.5.64). As Feste challenges Olivia’s obsessive mourning, he also helps Olivia realize and reveal the truth to herself that her brother is in heaven. His quality of outsmarting other characters adds quite the humour in the play. But not only that, the fact that Feste’s role as the fool provides him with a license to mock his superiors in the open creates and puts an entertaining blanket over the melancholy atmosphere in the play as he expresses himself mainly through creation of merryfull and joyous music, songs and jokes. In addition, Feste, the fool, once again remarkably continues to portray his wiitiful character as he uses his puns to mock Orsino’s lovelorn behaviour: “Will you go hunt, my lord?” “What, Curio?” “The hart.” “Why, so I do, the noblest that I have” (1.1.16-19). As Orsino’s servant, Feste, suggests that Orsino goes hunting for “the hart” which is defined as a deer but can be taken as ‘the heart’, Orsino further uses Feste’s pun by interpreting it as heart and stating that he already does engage in hunting the “hart”, the “noblest” heart that he has. This small one-word pun used by Feste and then used by Orsino describes Orsino’s thoughts and intentions about his love towards Olivia. These little word-plays go a long way in the readers’ mind as they result into either foreshadowing or sometimes even clearly explaining the situation, a character’s feelings about a particular situation, a character’s characteristics etc. The bold use of language in this play presents one’s thoughts, feelings and characteristics in a very creative and entertaining form of communication which also helps keep every element of the play balanced.

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Not only that but Twelfth Night, the eve of Epiphany, is described, in the Shakespearen times, as a chaotic holiday in which everyone celebrates chaos as everything turns upside down behind the curtains. During this holiday, social roles were relaxed, men were allowed to dress as a woman and women as men. These traditions reflect upon the plot and characters of Twelfth Night. The comedic plot and dialogues of the play play a considerable amount of role in developing and reminding the readers of the significance of the title of Twelfth Night. The 2 main characters who are the main source of slapstick humour in the play who are usually drunk and dancing till midnight show the festive spirit the best out of the characters: “Shall we set about some revels?” “What shall we do else? Were we not born under Taurus?” (1.3.116-117). Their buffoonery in the middle of the night regardless of knowing Olivia is still crying in grief of her brother and their own worries, reflects their sense of fun and joy of living as it also helps the audience feel the spirit of celebrations that come on the day of the Twelfth Night. It is 100% assured that every time they both enter the scene, the humour is immediately signalled by their use of prose, bawdy language and song that would no doubtely appeal to any audience. Malvolio, the comedic villain fool who thinks that Maria is blindly in love with him, acts and dresses up as written in the letter written by Maria states, “To bed, Ay sweetheart, and I’ll come to thee!”. His suggestive comments as he fantasizes about Olivia’s love for him become amusing because of Shakesspeare’s deployment of incongruity. Moreover, his hubristic attitude, evident in both the ways he reprimands his superiors and in his conceited belief that he could be his mistress’ master, means that the audience, much like the onlookers in the Box-tree scene, enjoy his downfall. These pranks created by mainly Sir Toby and Fabian create an amazingly high spirit of celebrations of laughter and chaos in the storyline whilst also reminding the audience about the significance of the play.

Shakespeare uses comedy in a remarkable manner to portray and convey the big elements of the play in an amazingly hilarious way. He uses his characters to remind the audience about the true meaning of Twelfth Night and balancing out the various atmospheres in the play. Comedy can indeed go a long way along with its various wordplays in Twelfth Night. 


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