Twelfth night- mistaken identity

Topics: Comedy, Drama, William Shakespeare Pages: 4 (1182 words) Published: January 7, 2014
The comedy in ‘Twelfth Night’ is largely generated by episodes involving mistaken identity. How far do you agree?

William Shakespeare, in his well-known comic play, Twelfth Night, creates a plot that revolves around mistaken identity and deception. Mistaken identity, along with disguises, affects the lives of several of the characters. Shakespeare's techniques involve mistaken identity to bring comedy, mystery, and complication to the play. Some characters in this play turn to disguise in order to succeed in life, beginning with Viola in the exposition; who disguises herself as a eunuch and goes by the name of Cesario to be able to work for the Duke. Furthermore, Malvolio who is portrayed as crazy and finally the confusion between the twin characters of Viola and Sebastian which is resolved at the end.

Others may argue that the comedy conventions in Twelfth Night don’t come from the theme of mistaken identity but from other aspects such as Sir Toby and Andrew’s physical/drunken behaviour, using the medieval comedy convention of bawdy humour the characters of Toby and Andrew create a sense of humiliation towards themselves. This could be supported by the critic Bergson as he says “the comedy is made to humiliate lesser characters” meaning that there is a sense of absurd comedy about it. This type of behaviour is seen as absurd as we don’t expect ‘Sir’s’ to get drunk often and act with bawdy humour. However, mistaken identity destroys this idea of humiliation as Shakespeare did not want to deliberately humiliate the characters, he simply wanted to create comedy using the conventions of sarcasm , hyperbole and dramatic irony which allow the structure of the play to flow perfectly as this is what every comedy needs. Could talk toby and Andrew – physical humour, medieval- bawdy. Traditional- smile at end –happy ending

Maria, Olivia’s gentlewoman, also creates confusion and deception to the play, to Olivia’s head servant,...

Bibliography: All of my sources came from the online sites of and and also the Twelfth Night coursework booklet, the comedy booklet, and finally Shakespeare, W. (1994) Twelfth Night, Oxford University press, London.
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