Why Does Olivia's Use Of Slapstick In Act 1

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During Sebastian and Olivia’s exchange in Act IV Scene I, Shakespeare uses slapstick comedy and contrast, irony, theme, rhyming quatrain, and blank verse in order to lay the foundation of their identities and compatibility. To start the scene, Olivia aggressively berates Sir Toby, calling him names like “Ungracious wretch” (45) before gracefully and kindly addressing Sebastian as “gentle friend” (49) after a near fight. Olivia’s abrupt about-face creates a comical contrast that both speaks to Shakespeare 's usage of slapstick and the pair’s true identity/feelings. Exaggerated behaviour, especially coupled with physical violence like that displayed in Sebastian’s fights with Sir Andrew and Sir Toby, is a hallmark of slapstick because it gives readers a reason to excuse the ridiculousness of what is happening. Instead of wondering how the characters could be stupid enough to mistake Sebastian for “Cesario,”…show more content…
Slapstick comedy also brings out Sebastian and Olivia’s identities. “Cesario” placates Feste’s wordplay and desperately avoids fighting with Sir Toby whereas Sebastian jumps in ready to fight two men in the same breath. Similarly, Olivia thinks she needs to help the previously weak “Cesario” and relishes in an attempt to control such a malleable young man. Ironically, she immediately blames the violence on Sir Toby which would align with “Cesario’s” disposition but it is actually Sebastian causing trouble. Speaking of irony, a few lines before meeting Olivia, Sebastian asks “Are all the people mad” (25) before quickly devolving into the very madness he spoke against when he says “If it be thus to dream, still let me sleep!” (60). Essentially, Sebastian

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