The Twelfth Night: The Comedy, The Deception and The Drama
Perhaps among the greatest works of literature contributed by William Shakespeare to mankind would include the comedy The Twelfth Night. Employing the power of imagery, Shakespeare used his characters and their words to discuss the issues surrounding love and deception while at the same time entertaining his audience with scenes dipped in wit and a kind of madness. The characters he gave life to in the play all served as mediums for a rather satirical analysis of love, appearances, gender identity and melancholy.
Synopsis: The twists and turns of the plot
According to absoluteshakespeare.com, The Twelfth Night opens with a scene depicting the lametations of Illyria’s Duke Orsino, a nobleman pining for the affections of the beautiful Lady Olivia. The said lady is in mourning and has made known her intent to remain in seclusion. In the meantime, Viola, a young noblewoman was tossed into the shores of Illyria following a shipwreck. Because of the wreck, Viola lost her twin brother Sebatian, whom she believes to have drowned during the storm. With the help of the captain of the wrecked ship, Viola learns of Illyria. Viola then decides to disguise herself as a pageboy named Cesario to serve the household of Duke Orsino. Gaining the duke’s confidence, Cesario soon became the messenger of the duke’s love and was given the main task of wooing the Lady Olivia. The play is then followed with complicated twists and turns, such as Olivia falling in love with Viola who was disguised as Cesario, and Viola falling in love with duke, who is still in love with the lady Olivia. The story was further complicated when, at the near end of the play, Sebastian surfaced to have survived the shipwreck. The play was also made colorful by various subplots involving the gentlemen and a maid of Olivia’s house who demonstrated the subject of madness (absoluteshakespeare n.p.).
Premises, Questions and Themes
Primarily a comedy, the play also contains in it aspects of melancholy. The play was developed to present various dramatic premises and questions mostly centering on the pain of an impossible and unrequitted love. However, Shakespeare also presented facts and analyses of sexual identity and ambiguity and madness all throughout the play.
According to Litcharts.com, among the main themes of Shakespeare’s The Twelfth Night include: Desire and Love, Melancholy, Madness, Deception, Disguise and Performance, and Class, Masters and Servants. According to the same site, “Shakespeare pokes fun at Orsino’s flowery love poetry, making it clear that he is more in love with love, rather than his supposed beloveds (www.Litchart.com n.p.).” Shakespeare also broached the subject of melancholy, which, back then, was thought of as a disease brought about by narcissistic and unreturnedd love. Another interesting theme of The Twelth Night is the ambiguity and vagueness of gender and sexual identity, as displayed by the fact that Olivia had fallen in love with Cesario, because of his womanly characteristics. Madness was also discussed in all it various forms. However, being a classic romantic, Shakespeare ultimately related madness to love: “madness becomes a way for characters to express the intensity of their romantic feelings (www.Litchart.com n.p.).”
Absoluteshakespeare. “The Twelfth Night Summary Guide.” Mar. 2005. < http://www.absolute shakespeare.com/guides/twelfth_night/summary/twelfth_night_summary.htm>
Litchart. “Twelfth Night: Themes.” 2008. < http://www.litcharts.com/lit/twelfthnight/themes>