Marriage and Twelfth Night

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‘At the end of Shakespeare’s comedic plays all complications and disorders are resolved and a new order is generated to the satisfaction of the audience.’ to what extent is this true of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night? It is easily argued that Shakespeare’s comedic plays have a similar, formulaic, structure. Dr Schwartz from the California Polytechnic State University argues that the ‘action of a comedy traces a movement from conflict to the resolution of conflict’. There are many disorders and complications in each plot, which by the end of the play must be resolved for the satisfaction of the Elizabethan audience, and in some perspectives, this applies to the modern day audience as well. Twelfth Night poses many different arguments as to whether it conforms to this set framework. The viewpoint held by many is that Viola carries the key complication in the play of her cross-dressing. This causes the lowering of Viola’s class through her disguise, which, to a Shakespearean audience may have needed to have been resolved, for they had a very rigid class system. She says, ‘I’ll serve this duke;/Thou shall present me as an eunuch to him;’. It could be considered ironic that Viola wishes to ‘serve’ Orsino as a servant at the beginning of the play, but at the end of the play she marries him, which in Elizabethan times she will have been expected to ‘serve’ him as his wife. This could be seen as a resolution, for when she reveals ‘That I am Viola’ she is restored to her status. It could be argued that she receives a higher status, for the Duke proposes to Orsino ‘Here is my hand; you shall from this time be/ Your master’s mistress’. For some Elizabethan audiences this would resolve the problem of gender roles, Viola being restored to the traditional female wife would be satisfying for them as it is arguable that men and woman had very separate roles, and the mixing of them would have been comedic, but in need of resolving. To a contemporary audience, this perhaps would not...
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