‘The real fascination of Twelfth Night is the undercurrents of danger and darkness beneath its comic surface.’ Considering the dramatic effects of Twelfth Night evaluate this view.
Despite being dubbed a ‘comedy’ with Shakespeare’s endless word puns and humorous characters, the plots that make up Twelfth Night rely heavily upon the undercurrents of danger and darkness. The audience are invited to laugh at the expense of characters such as Malvolio. Yet it is not just the underlying darkness in the play that has caused it to become one of Shakespeare’s most renowned comedies; the entertainment of festivity, duals, relationships and drunkenness appeal to audiences from the Elizabethan period right through to the present day when the most recent adaptation was filmed in 1996.
The dramatic effects that run continuously through Twelfth Night are the deception, confusion, anguish and chaos. The disorderly land of Ilyria provides the perfect setting for the play as the title ensues the last night of festivity suggesting chaos and misrule. In particular the disguise of which Viola undertakes fits in well in the setting. “I’ll serve this duke: Thou shall present me as an eunuch to him”. She speaks in direct simple language using direct verbs such as ‘serve’, this immediately asserts her character’s defiant and decisive nature. She chooses to disguise herself as a eunuch as ladies were not able to wait on Dukes, thus the caring nature and high-pitched voices of eunuchs were popular among the Elizabethan period. The comedy of this disguise to the Elizabethan audience would have been tremendous with the slapstick humour of a young man playing a lady whom disguises herself as a castrated male. In a Chinese adaptation by Zhou Shui, this comic part of the play is heightened as he added an extra scene of the transformation and dramatized it by adding Chinese musical instruments and soft coloured lighting. However where there is comedy in Twelfth Night, darkness is only...
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