Literature Essay: Twelfth Night; the Essence of Dramatic Elements

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Disguise is the source of theatrical appeal in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Discuss the validity of this statement.

Michael Pennington describes Twelfth Night as a typical Romantic Comedy with a sublime sense of inconcsequentiality amidst the lyrical nature that plagues its environment. Therefore it is none other than that of a romantic comedy, and by definition, seeks the usage of a most humourous yet vital factor that shapes the events that are to occur; Disguise. Disguise indeed gives rise to theatrical appeal and as Graham atkin identifies, poses a most poignant question of human identity in relation to outward realist appearance. Nonetheless, there is a diversity of opinion as to whether disguise is the primary source for such a comedic sequence of events to unravel as the play goes on. In fact, there are other elements that facilitate the foundation upon which disguise is rooted that creates and shapes what is in fact Twelfth Night; plot, character, dialogue, theme, music and speactacle.

Freytag’s theory delineates that a play is sibject to 5 acts upon which the 1st Act, the exposition, establishes the plot and enlightens the audience on what is to be expected.. All characters give rise to their functions and roles in this act. However, revelation of the characters are not confined to the first act alone. Such a contradiction is concretized in Act 2 scene 1 when the audience is acquainted with Sebastian, Viola’s twin brother, alive from the shipwreck and destined to enter voyage of “mere extravagancy”. To an Elizabethan audience, this is indeed most intriguing for Shakespeare to disclose another subplot in the second Act. Such an event that occurs gives rise in essence to dramatic effect, stuning the audience and fuelling their plight to know what will come again. Furthermore, the fact that it is a comedy, also know as “What You will’ unveils a deeper meaning. History notes that Twelfth Niight was written in 1601 for pure entertainment, at Christmas time upon which the societal norms and convention were uprooted and the reverse was prevalent. As such Freytag’s theory is viewed in the reverse. The audience may therefore expct the unexpected, things may not appear what they seem to be. Pennington further describes that the first act complies in rapid succession, such a quick succession in itself allows one to think on the essence of the events to occur. The plot is not revealed entirely in the first act; the first sign of dramatic vigour and suspense; What will happen next?

Plot, in function, gives rise to character and in turn, the character gives rise to the unveiling of the plots. This appeals to comic relief to the audience, a vital theatrical conponent in linking the events with the essence of the characters to the play. Act one scene 1 inntroduces first and foremost the one and only Orsino, begging in portic verse lamenting on his loss of love “if music be the food of love play on………” This entire scene is devoted to his essence as character. It is revealed that he is in love with the countess Olivia who has sworn to mourn the lost of her brother for seven years with “eye-offending brine” and “hath abjured the sight on men”. Remarkably, and humourously to the audience, Orsino in tuen twists this reality to his illusion of when he marries Olivia how will she love her brother when “the rich golden shaft” had killed all other emotions and passions. This hint of sexual appeal surfaces the inevitably that Orsino is in fact mad, perhaps insane or in love with love itself. Graham Atkins described him as a self ingulgent egotistical man. This is indeed humourous to an extent for such a creation of such a character. Shakespeare alleviates the audience from such buffoonery with the juxtaposition of a witty character, logical in mind introducedin act two scene 2; Viola. Shipwrecked, her twin brother unknown, forced to disguise herself “conceal me what I am…..” as a pageboy to serve Orsino therfore intertwines both...
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