Cruelty In Twelfth Night

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Neil King’s definition of a comedy, “a work which is primarily designed to amuse and entertain, and where, despite alarms along the way, all’s well that ends well for the characters” (King 55) is undoubtedly affirmed by Shakespeare’s use of comedic features such as dramatic irony. Despite the creation of exuberant comedy within the play, principal sub-plots in ‘Twelfth Night’ such as the gulling and confinement of Malvolio, prove that when looked at in more depth, to some extent, the play’s comedy cloaks themes of cruelty and suffering. The very title of the play, ‘Twelfth Night’, directly links to the twelve days of festivity that traditionally took place during the Elizabethan period. During this time, not only were ordinary rules subverted, but the Lord of Misrule reigned supreme and events such as plays and processions took place. Employing this historical background for the ‘Twelfth Night’ creates the opportunity for revelry to happen. An example of this merrymaking occurring in ‘Twelfth Night’ is when Sir Andrew states he firmly believes in life consisting of only “eating and drinking” (2.3.11). The fact that he links such an indulgence like alcohol to his whole life suggests an excessiveness of festivity. This clearly shows that there is comedy in the play…show more content…
Although the comedic purpose of the cruelty embedded amongst the humour is not so easily identifiable with modern audiences, it should not be ignored. Fundamentally, the pitiless strands of cruelty serve a principle function in the comedic formula to entertain the audience. Correspondingly, the audience of the play can overlook the cruelty in the play and validate laughing at character’s suffering because Malvolio was serving the Shakespearean convention of a character whose failings can be laughed at but also introduces a darker note to the play. Ultimately, this means that the harsh cruelty is extensively cloaked by
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