To what extent is Shakespeare's Twelfth Night a play in the genre of comedy?

Topics: Comedy, William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night Pages: 3 (508 words) Published: April 19, 2015
Foolishness lies at the heart of this play. To what extent do you agree? Comedy can be defined as ‘Popular entertainment composed of jokes, satire, or humorous performance’ and is said to expose ‘A humorous element of life or literature’.1 William Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ undoubtedly presents these common comedic traits and exploits them, primarily through the incorporation of foolishness within many aspects of the play, therefore conforming to comedy by that definition. However, within the play, arguably at the heart of it, there are other themes such as confusion and misunderstanding which lead to the question of whether foolishness is truly at the heart of the play and if there are other themes to consider.

Twelfth Night begins to suggest that foolishness and triviality will be at the centre of the play from the beginning due to the many contextual connotations it has relating to the Elizabethan festival, also known as the ‘Feast of Fools’. From this reference, the audience can already begin to predict that not only will there be foolish behaviour, but from the word ‘feast’ they can deduct that there will in fact be a surplus. The festival ‘Twelfth Night’ occurs annually on the 5th of January where food and drink are typically at the centre of celebrations ‘but I rather think it consists of eating and drinking’. Foolish behaviour can be expected to result from this over indulgence and is clearly exhibited in Sir Toby and Sir Andrew who are foolish ‘drunkards’ throughout ‘come so early of this lethargy’, resulting in some linguistic comedy as well as well as many opportunities for physical comedy as a result of foolish behaviour. Furthermore, the historical connotations related with ‘Twelfth Night’, similarly confirm that ‘foolishness lies at the heart of the play’ as the Twelfth Night festival involved a large amount of role reversal, this too can be related to the play. Role reversal during the festival, commonly took place between people of vastly...

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