Twelfth Night Analysis

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William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is a well-known Christmas play, it is considered as one of the most successful comedies. The play starts when Viola and her twin brother, Sebastian, survive a shipwreck. When they cannot find each other, each thinks the other may be dead. Then they move on to two separate ways, establishing two story lines that finally meet with each other after involving funny mistaken identities. The love bug in the comedy bites not only Olivia and Orsino, but also Sebastian, along with Malvolio. Shakespeare finishes his play with a sweet ending when Viola finally gets together with Duke Orsino and Olivia realizes that she loves Sebastian. The comic effect in the play is achieved by several ingredients – a set of twins, a good amount of irony and a dash of romance. Among the various elements that generate the humor in Twelfth Night, the usage of irony is especially effective.

Situational irony creates an intense yet humorous atmosphere for the entire play. Viola complicates the plot after she disguises herself as a young man, calling herself Cesario, and works as an eunuch for Duke Orsino. An important situational irony that affects the plot significantly appear to us when Viola receives Olivia’s ring after visiting her house. When Viola realizes her situation, she says that “My master loves her dearly, / And I, poor master, fond as much on him, / And she, mistaken, seems to dote on me. / What will become of this? As I am man, / My state is desperate for my master’s love. / As I am woman ( now., alas the day! ), / What thriftless sighs shall poor Olivia breathe! / O Time, thou must untangle this, not I. / It is too hard a knot for me t’ untie. ” (2.2.33-41) As Olivia helps Duke Orsino to woo Olivia, Viola begins to fall in love with the Duke while Olivia starts to fall in love with Viola, thinking “him” as a handsome young boy. Thus a classic situational irony takes place in the comedy, resembling characteristics of a modern...
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