The Effect of Role Reversal in Marriage in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

Topics: William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Love Pages: 4 (1314 words) Published: May 5, 2013
The Role of Marriage in the Role Reversal of Twelfth Night
Wouldn’t it be great to somehow wake up one morning in a beautiful house? How about owning an expensive new car? It is safe to say that practically everyone in the world is hoping that someday somehow they will become very successful and rise into a status of power and respect. This concept can be applied to the characters in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Just as Jesse Goldberg stated, Twelfth Night focuses on the desires of characters and “certain characters are allowed to actualize their fantastic desires and others are forbidden by forces within the play” (StudentPulse). For those who do, the connection between each status change is the institution of marriage. Marriage in this play can be seen as both a blessing for some, and a grave deterrent for others. While some characters are married into higher rank, others are forced to keep their original roles but are even worse off than how they began in the play. I aim to prove that in Twelfth Night fortune, in the form of marriage, can be seen as the deciding force that ends the play and determines each character’s fate.

Throughout Twelfth Night, readers receive a strong sense that most of the characters want more out of their lives. As Jesse Goldberg states, “It is hard to miss the indulgent behaviors of the characters of Twelfth Night” (StudentPulse). While numerous characters-such as Viola, Olivia, Orsino and Sebastian-desire the love of another, the desire for power is also seen quite clearly in the character Malvolio. Other characters such as Sir Toby and Maria want nothing more than a hearty supply of alcohol and a good prank to make them laugh and keep their spirits high. In the final chapter, marriage can be seen as the force that gives the characters what they desire, and at the same time, withholds other characters’ desires just the same.

“This is evident in the play’s treatment of Malvolio’s desire for wish-fulfillment, for...

Cited: Goldberg, Jesse A. (2011). "Power and Transgression in Twelfth Night andMeasure for Measure: Artifice and Ideology as Tools of the Elite." Student Pulse, 3(10). Retrieved from: <>
Shakespeare, William, Roger Warren, and Stanley W. Wells. The Oxford Shakespeare: Twelfth night, or what you will. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.
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