Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s comic masterpieces. Three couples are paired together by the end of the play, and the siblings reunited. This story evokes much more sympathy and empathy in the way characters are shown than other earlier comedy such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In Twelfth Night, we are still invited to laugh with the characters rather than laughing at them. It contains a harmonic balance between comic and tragic elements. William Shakespeare employs comic conventions to keep tragedy in check for instance, the witty banter and emphasis on the dialogue in this play.
There are certain elements in the play context such as death and love, even though there is no actual deaths occur in Twelfth Night, death is emphasis throughout the play. Identity and disguise The likeness and differences generates much of the action in the comic and romantic plots which depends on Viola and Sebastian being identical in appearance, yet two different people. I felt that Shakespeare had cleverly played with words, all the characters are either taken in by another character’s disguise or deception of their own identity. For example, Feste as Sir Topas and Viola as Cesario.
Viola is aware that life in Illyria is like a play which characters choose roles and enact their identities however, she is also aware of the wickedness of disguise, thus deceiving Olivia and having limitation from being loved by Orsino. We can see that there is a confusion of gender identity as Viola embodies it when she assumes the identity of a boy, Cesario. Feste, the Fool, provides the other characters with a mirror in which they see themselves without illusion. Social context The status of women In Twelfth night, we see gender stereotypes challenged in many ways.
The strongest character in the play, Viola, is sympathetically portrayed as adopting a male disguise in order to transcend the typical gender restrictions in the English society. Olivia, who is portrayed like Queen Elizabeth, is the head of her household, is in a position of authority throughout the play, trying to maintain peace between the choleric Malvolio and Toby. We can see her controlling her household, while Orsino, by contrast, is less authoritative as he would rather lounge about his house passively and recite poetry that go hunting for a deer or for Olivia.