Twelfth Night Comedy
.. his passionate plea and later exchanges demonstrate Orsinos developing character. Initially he is more “in love” with the idea of love. We as the audience and survey of this activity may find his self-absorption laughable but as he develops into a well-rounded character, it is evident why Shakespeare portrayed him in this way. It is vital the believability and credit to the play and its issues that we can emphasize with the characters. To understand why Orsino can love and marry Viola soon after discovering her identity, Shakespeare has portrayed him as a man capable of great passion but little sense.
Cesario provides this rational, logical way of thinking and so hence, Orsino becomes more self-aware. Initially his lack of perception is comic but it is not without art or intention and so hence not “unreservedly humorous.” Olivia is also a creature of excess and fraudulent behavior; the mourning of her brothers death appears more so for her sake rather than in actual despair of a loss. Shakespeare has done this by comparing her reaction to Violas, a person of far greater self-awareness. Her character is constantly compared to Viola; Olvias self-absorptive, obstinate character again develops through contact with Cesario. Particularly noticeable In scenes where feelings are intense, such as Olivia declaration of love for Cesario, Shakespeare balances this seriousness and lightens the atmosphere with rhyming couplets. Act 3 scene 1, “I love thee so, that, maugre all thy pride, / Nor wit nor reason can my passion hide.” The ironic high comedy is balanced by the pain Olivia is obviously feeling. This balance of pain and humor to highlight the themes is common throughout the play.
For any character to be completely comic or totally dark would detract from the greater intentions of the play. Each character comes to a certain self-realization, however the discovery is not always a happy one. Malvolios self-discovery is not a pleasant journey nor is the ending happy. This ending that is propitious for some and not for others is another representation of light and shade in Twelfth Night. If the play was unrestrained in its humor there would be no art in the play. Without art and wit, Twelfth Night would be not only boring in its low comedy but also lacking in any substantial themes or social issues.
The fact that the ending is not favorable for everyone, Malvolio is devastated that the women he was sure loved him does not. Sir Andrew realizes he has been also duped by Sir Andrew and Feste does not appear totally self satisfied. Without these sufferings, the Twelfth Night would be superfluous as a comedy attempting to point out human foibles. Song and music are devices that are particularly imperative to a comedy. In Twelfth Night music emphasizes the mood or balances they scene, controlling and manipulating light, and shade for desired effect. When considering Twelfth Night as a miniature mirror of society rather than a satire, music becomes an integral part of conveying themes.
Moments of comedy are sometimes juxtaposed with serious, somber music. Such as when Sir Toby and Sir Andrew are in high drunken spirits, they call for a song from Feste, Toby : “Lets have a song.” Clown : “.. a love song, or a song of good life?” Toby : “A love song, a love song.” Andrew : ” Ay, ay, I care not for good life.” The irony of the situation is humorous and through music, we see Sir Toby and Sir Andrews serious side. It may well be seen as humorous that these two lonesome drunks care for love rather than the good life they have chosen. The comedy of the situation is tainted by the slight but penetrating sadness we can see in the two.
Music is found in almost all aspects of the play, from the beginning where music reveals the humor in Orsinos”depressing” situation. Through to the final speech in the play where Feste uses song to speak truthfully about the meanings of the play. “But thats all one, our play is done, / And well strive to please you everyday.” The language of Twelfth Night, its structure and purpose are area where it is obvious that Shakespeare intended the play, its characters and the plot to be an overlapping indefinite line between light and shade. Maximum suspense is created by the constant balance, though we as the audience know that as a comedy all will end well Shakespeare combats this as much as possible. The structure of the play where two thirds of the play is written in prose, therefore allowing for punning and word play, it is lively and dynamic which holds audience attention. Moments of importance are made as obvious to the audience with rhyming couplets and blank verse.
Letters, such as the letter to Malvolio rhyme to highlight the humor of the situation, “I may command where I adore; /../With bloodless stroke of my heart doth gore. ” The language of the play is manipulated in such a way, it is humorous, but it is balanced and constrained. Twelfth Night is a comedy, it has humorous aspects, and the plot is often laughable. However, it is contained through the cunning clever artistic ability of Shakespeare. Moments of great pain and sorrow are capitalized for effect. Accentuating the social themes and issues dealt with throughout the play. Every aspect of Twelfth Night is artistic and controlled; every scene has deliberate intentions to convey messages to the audience.
The play in its entirety is effective through the careful balance of humor and pain. Twelfth night succeeds as a comedy because of this careful balance, entertaining its audience as well as allowing people to examine their own failings. The carefully crafted characters such as Malvolio help convey and accentuate the themes. Comic characters are also somber and vice versa. To do this Shakespeare employs many dramatic techniques, such as humor of situation and character, the true skill of Shakespeares writing is demonstrated when examining his complete control of comedy within the characters and plot.