Twelfth Night or What You Will
Discuss the role of the explicitly comic characters – Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, Feste, and Maria. What function do they serve in the play? How is each one different from the others? What effect does it have on your appreciation for their role in the play? Twelfth Night, by William Shakespeare, explores themes of love and mistaken identity through a witty and comedic story. Some supporting characters – Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Feste, and Maria – seem at first to be explicitly comical characters, added to the story only for their additions to the funny scenes and witty dialogue of the play. Their scheming and fooling embodies the Twelfth Night season, a topsy-turvy festival of mayhem. However, these four characters play a much greater role. They make much of the confusion that creates the humour of the play. They drive the sub-plots of the play, and at times the main plot. They are all a fool in their own different ways, and it is this difference that makes each one better appreciated as an individually important character. Sir Toby Belch is the first of the comic characters introduced. He is Olivia’s uncle, and a jovial drunkard who embodies the Twelfth Night season of topsy-turvy mayhem. “Confine [myself]? I’ll confine myself no finer than I am.” (I.iii.9) Sir Toby refuses to change his attitude or behaviour. He is happy simply having a good time. He acts as an opposite to Malvolio; bringing an air of fun and laughter to Olivia’s court. Unlike almost every other character in the play, Sir Toby engages in no melancholy love-seeking. He is in love with Maria, and eventually marries her, but does not engage in the languishing of other characters. He does not change his behaviour to try and attract love, but stays the same character from beginning to end. This jolly attitude means that Sir Toby’s role is better appreciated as a Twelfth Night role. The maintaining of his...
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