How and why does Shakespeare use disguise to develop the comedy of 12th night?
The use of disguise features throughout 12th night. As the play is a comedy it has to involve certain conventions such as green worlds and confusion, the inclusion of disguise allows Shakespeare to generate comedy and a positive response from the audience as well as making the conventions of comedy easier to include in the play. Shakespeare includes his first use of disguise early on in the play (A1:S2) where Viola asks the captain to ‘present me as an eunuch to him’. This disguise goes on to become a crucial part of the play, and the relationship between ‘him’ (Orsino) and Viola. Because Shakespeare has Viola say this very early on in the play when the audience’s attention is still very focused as there has been no confusion up to this point, Shakespeare can use this disguise to create dramatic irony throughout the play, using the audience’s knowledge of Violas disguise to create awkward and amusing exchanges. An example of an exchange that uses this dramatic irony can be found in (A3:S1) ‘send thee a beard’ Feste says to Viola. In the Globe production of 12th Night the audience burst out in laughter at the irony of this. The delivery of the actor of Viola is also used to generate comedy, the actors voice jumping from high to low as she has to remember she is acting as a boy. This is even funnier due to the fact when the play was first performed and often nowadays the cast was all male, causing the audience to see a man playing a woman who is disguised as a man, this causes great confusion and adds to the comedy. Viola goes on to cause a lot of chaos within the green world of Illyria, most notably the relationship between herself and Olivia, the audience see Olivia falling for Viola and the confusion builds as the awkward love triangle is formed between Viola, Olivia and Orsino. This allows Shakespeare to set up the comedy structure which involves confusion being resolved at the...
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