The Ways in Which Shakespeare Entertains his Audience in Twelfth Night
One of the main themes throughout Twelfth Night is that of confusion
and mistaken identity. This is illustrated mainly by Viola as Cesario,
confusing all of the characters into thinking that she is a man. The
only people that know of her true identity (apart from the sea captain
at the very beginning) are the audience. This makes it more enjoyable
and entertaining for the audience as they know exactly what is going
on and can see the comedy in the plot as it thickens. This links to
the other main theme of the play, that of entertainment and comic
characters. This is illustrated through Sir Toby Belch; who is quite
clever and enjoys playing tricks on people such as Sir Andrew
Aguecheek and Malvolio who are less intelligent and more unaware of
their humorous characteristics.
The scene in which Sir Toby and Maria trick Malvolio into thinking
that Olivia is in love with him is a good example of a humorous and
"Observe him, for the love of mockery, for I know this letter will
make a complete idiot of him"
Malvolio, although he is a servant, often looks down on Sir Toby as if
he is better than him.
"Is there no respect of place, persons, nor time in you?"
This is obviously one of the reasons that Sir Toby dislikes Malvolio
and enjoys playing tricks on him, but is also an example of the
hierarchy being turned upside down. This is something which
Shakespeare's audiences would have associated with twelfth night, a
time of misrule and abandonment of the rules, of fun and confusion.
These are all highlighted throughout the play, meaning that the
audience would have been able to connect the title of the play to the
events in it, something today's audience would find harder to do.
Audiences would have gone into the theatre expecting a humorous plot
filled with confusion, something Shakespeare manages to live up to.
Shakespeare's audiences would have been the poorer people, visiting
the playhouses, very likely to dislike the middle classes and
puritans, who wanted to close the theatres down. I think that
Shakespeare uses Malvolio to represent Puritanism, a character who has
very traditional values and doesn't join in with the fun and games. I
think this association would have made it easier to laugh at Malvolio
when he is picked on by the other characters and locked up unfairly by
"Let this fellow be looked to"
Twelfth Night, like many other Shakespeare comedies, has both a main
plot and a sub plot. The main plot is the story of Viola/Cesario,
Orsino and Olivia and their love-triangle.
"My master loves her dearly;
And I, poor monster, fond as much on him;
And she, mistaken, seems to dote on me."
This plot is based on the different types of love, confusion...