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Twelfth Night Critical Essays

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❶This is due to many obstacles that faced women disabling them from singing, playing any instruments, or even composing music. The play also features a subplot centered on the priggish Malvolio, steward to Olivia, and the punishment he endures at the hands of his fellow servants.

Critical Overview and Evaluation

William Shakespeare
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The contributors approach these topics from a variety of perspectives, such as new critical, new historicist, cultural materialist, feminist and queer theory, and performance criticism, occasionally combining several approaches within a single essay.

The new essays from leading figures in the field explore and extend the key debates surrounding Twelfth Night, creating the ideal book for readers approaching this text for the first time or wishing to further their knowledge of this stimulating, much loved play. James Schiffer's extensive introduction surveys the play's critical reception and performance history, while individual My library Help Advanced Book Search. Routledge , - Drama - pages. Contents taking the long view Twelfth Night criticism and performance.

Editing puzzles and eunuchs of all kinds. Sensing sexual strangeness in Twelfth Night. Amity twinning and comic closure in Twelfth Night.

Shakespeare essential masculinity and Western citizenship. Development - building up the dramatic tension and moving the conflict established to its climax. In Twelfth Night , increasing complications resulting from love, and mistaken identity. Denouement - resolution of the conflict and re-establishing some form of equilibrium.

In Twelfth Night , the realisation of the disguises and the pairing up of the characters. The scenes of Twelfth Night are carefully woven together in order to create tension and humour, and to prepare us, almost subconsciously, for what is going to happen. We are given fragments of manageable information throughout the play so that when the complex plot unfolds we understand it by piecing together all the information given to us in previous scenes.

For example, to return to the Duke and Viola, the audience is aware of the fact that she is disguised as a man, so understands more than the Duke himself does as he struggles with his feelings, believing he is falling in love with a man. The audience is fed important information in Act 2 Scene 1 when Antonio and Sebastian meet and converse:.

Through these lines Shakespeare lets the audience in on the fact that Sebastian is alive, and that he believes his sister Viola to be dead, and that the two resemble one another in appearance. We also see how Sebastian feels for his sister as he talks about her so passionately. This is an important part of the development stage of the play as it prepares us for the role which mistaken identity will play in the plot, and sets up the potential for dramatic irony.

Another scene which prepares us for dramatic irony is when Maria, Sir Andrew, and Sir Toby write the letter to Malvolio, under the pretence that it is from Olivia. As we the audience are aware of this deception it sets up the dramatic irony, because Malvolio himself is not aware of it when he finds and reads the letter during Act 2, Scene 5.

Presuming the letter is for him, and from Olivia, he proceeds to embarrass himself. The structure in which many subplots run through the play can be described as 'River Action'; actions not closely linked are moving in parallel to be integrated at the end of the play. This contrasts to the single or episodic action in Macbeth , or the mirror action in King Lear where there is both a main and a sub-plot present. Shakespeare has used this structural technique to create both humour and tension.

The subplots also pick up on the themes of love and mistaken identities, preparing us for the part those themes will play in the main plot. Shakespeare also supports the events and actions in the play through language, using it to convey to the audience the feelings and thoughts of the characters as they respond to events. Language is used first and foremost for the purpose of conveying a difference in feelings or attitudes in different situations.

For example Malvolio speaks in prose at the beginning of the play, showing intelligence, but near the end he speaks in verse;. Here Shakespeare has distorted the rhythm so that it cannot fit the rule of iambic pentameter, thus showing that Malvolio is feeling strong emotion. His confusion and humiliation becomes apparent through the breathless manner in which he speaks.

By using iambic pentameter here Shakespeare defines Orsino's character to a certain degree. Iambic pentameter shows control and yet the emphasis here is on the instability and the intensity of his love for Olivia.

The audience cannot help but feel pity towards his self-induced love sickness, but at the same time the situation provokes hilarity, as he has never actually met Olivia. This leads us to believe he is 'in love with being in love'. Characters are there to instigate an emotional reaction from the audience, and when considering the characters of a Shakespeare play we may find as much characterisation as in a novel, but we must also consider that the characters have a mechanical function in the scheme of the play as a whole.

It can help to think of them as vehicles to carry ideas or themes; for example Orsino introduces the theme of love. The diction Shakespeare gives to his characters contributes to their characterisation. He gives characters with more intelligence a large vocabulary, where feeble-minded characters are more limited.

Evidence of this in Twelfth Night is perhaps not as obvious as in other plays such as The Tempest , where Caliban has a very limited vocabulary, and struggles to find words.

But characteristics of language such as imagery, metaphors, vocabulary and syntax used by Malvolio contrast for example with those used by the Clown. Although both characters are of a higher intelligence, the language chosen for each is very different;. He proves to be intelligent in that he is witty and wise. He also proves to be quite mysterious, seeming to know more than most, but still being observant and quiet.

That final line from Malvolio's is there to make the audience pity him. By using the metaphor of 'the whole pack of you' an image is immediately created of a group surrounding him. The metaphor describes how he has been made a fool of by all of them, and also signifies his isolation from the rest of the cast and how he has become a loose end of the play, as everybody else has found love or companionship with another person in the play.


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Twelfth Night literature essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Twelfth Night. Critical Analysis of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night Essay. Words May 18th, 5 Pages. Show More. William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is a comedy, first published in Love is a key aspect of Shakespeare’s comedies in which self-identity is found through the development of love from infatuation to acknowledgement of character.

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Essays and criticism on William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night - Twelfth Night Literary Criticism (Vol. 85). Essays on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Essays, Articles, and Book Excerpts on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Shakespeare's Second Period: Exploring Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet and the Histories. Introduction to .