Twelfth Night: Come away, come away, death | Stewartry
The Twelfth Night: The Comedy, The Deception and …
's Twelfth Night, or What You Will is a comedy about a cross-dressing, ship-wreck surviving, poetry-loving girl who finds herself at the center of a not-so-average love triangle.
Written between 1601 and 1602 (right around the same time Shakespeare wrote and Troilus and Cressida), the play is most famous today for being a so-called "Transvestite Comedy" (which just means it's a comedy with one or more cross-dressing characters). In Elizabethan London, all stage plays were performed by male actors who cross-dressed in order to play the parts of women. Twelfth Night is particularly provocative and interesting, since the role of its heroine, Viola, would have been played by a boy actor, who was cross-dressed as a female character, who cross-dresses as a boy. The story line has inspired plenty of remakes and adaptations, including the popular teen flick , starring .
Viola's cross-dressing may be no big moral whoop for audiences today, but, for 16th century Puritans, it was a big no-no. Theater critics argued that cross-dressing was sinful, "wicked," and "monstrous." They argued that it promoted sexual "deviance" and turned women into hermaphrodites. Today, however, Twelfth Night is one of the most popular and beloved of Shakespeare comedies perhaps because of its rebellious portrayal of gender ambiguity.
It was popular back in Shakespeare's day, too, but perhaps for different reasons. We know from 17th-century law student John Manningham's diary that Twelfth Night was performed at the Middle Temple (a London law school) on February 2, 1602. Check out what he had to say:
At our feast we had a play called "Twelfth Night, or What You Will," much like "" […] A good practice in it to make a Steward believe his Lady Widow was in love with him, by counterfeiting a letter […]
It's interesting that Manningham's diary entry focuses on the Malvolio sub-plot, which isn't necessarily what contemporary readers think of when they reflect on the play. Manningham's entry suggests that, at least for him, the play's ridicule of the social-climbing Puritan figure, Malvolio, was the most interesting and entertaining part of the performance. Several decades later, (b. 1600-1649) may have thought the same thing. In his copy of Shakespeare's works, he crossed out the title Twelfth Night and wrote in Malvolio! as a replacement. Guess old Charlie didn't like social climbers and Puritans either.
Of course, sat on the throne when Twelfth Night was penned. We wonder what she thought of the play. If she ever saw it, that is. Critics aren't sure. Check out "" for more on the debate.
English Literature: Twelfth Night: As a Romantic Comedy
The comedy in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night can be related to the comedy in those writings, although Shakespeare used a variety of comedic techniques, not used in either Great Expectations or Gulliver’s Travels.
Twelfth Night Essay Research Paper Twelfth Night — Sutree
Because of this, critics find that there is a very thin line between the categorisation of the novel and therefore see ‘Twelfth Night’ as both comedy and tragedy despite the fact that the audience and Shakespeare call this play a comedy....
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Though completely different written pieces (Twelfth Night with its comedic enlightenment, and Mosquito Coast with its serious "growing up" style enlightenment) are both comprised of the latter truth element where an inevitable realization of reality is reached in the end....