Elemetns of Dark Humor

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The theme of Dark comedy runs throughout the entire play, the eccentric Shakespearian comedy brings a tale of love, hate and dramatic irony and the presentation of the contrasting characters, language and mood all contribute to the plays darkness. The comedy in this play is not entirely light hearted; it is based on the cruel intentions of the characters and can become quite disturbing.

An important plot device in the play is the character of Feste; he is the fool and free spirit of Olivia’s household. A fool can be defined as “one who has little or no reason or intellect”, but in the case of Feste- this does not apply. He is a character of wit and sarcasm; he bends the rules yet he never breaks them. He provides dramatic irony, usually through the art of song. Orsino who is depicted as a melancholy lover asks Feste to sing him a song of love. Feste sings a song of how love can cause death, “my part of death no one so true did share it” suggesting Orsino would die for a partner who would have as much love for him as he would for them. However he also seems to be mocking Orsino, depending on how the lines are read they could be seen as a sad song just about a melancholy lover, or if it is sung sarcastically then it could be seen as mocking. It would seem therefore that the typical idea of romance, which is normally seen as positive, has dramatically changed and we see it stand for dark and melancholy feelings. In the song ‘O mistress mine’ that he also sings is firstly about love and how the journey of looking for love comes to an end,” Journeys end in lovers meeting”, and its about how you should live for the day- Carpe Diem. But then it subsides into the more dark nature “present mirth hath present laughter; What’s to come is still unsure” he sings of how love and time are similar as you haven’t got as long as you think in life to fall in love. The language is written in prose, as it is a song, he sings almost in riddles as if the song is meant to be about the greatness of love, but is truly speaking of what little time you actually have to find love.

Act 1 scene 3 introduces the first of the comedy scenes, written in prose it provides a good basis for mood change. Sir Toby Belch is seen as a festive character as he likes to drink and joke around, even if it is at the expense of someone else’s dignity. He seems festive and full of high spirit and in spite of his background he seems to be well educated. However, his light-hearted antics change and he becomes a key character in the dark comedy as he pleasures on mocking and embarrassing people.

The character of Sir Andrew is introduced as a simple-minded man, who may not have been well educated. This becomes apparent as he doesn’t understand the words spoken, “Sir Toby Belch! How now, Sir Toby Belch?” his not sure what his saying or who he is talking to, he questions himself asking speaking his name. Sir Toby replies with “Sweet Sir Andrew!” which could be seen as being patronising towards him, it’s amusing to the audience as he speaks in a laughing tone, however it is at the expense of Sir Andrew himself.

Sir Toby Belch is a kinsman to Olivia, her uncle we assume. He shows no sympathy towards her throughout the start of the play. He is the one who takes advantage of the hospitality she is showing him. Previously in the play we hear of the news that Olivia’s brother had died in a shipwreck; “the element itself, till seven years’ heat. Shall not behold her face at ample view; but like a cloistress she will veiled walk” To mourn her brothers passing Olivia vows to wear a veil for seven years and to walk around her room crying each day as a ritual to remind her of her brothers death. Sir Toby sees this as excessive and attention seeking, “What a plague means my niece to take the death of her brother thus? I am sure care’s an enemy to life” he shows no sympathy for the...
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