The use of humor in the twelfth night

12th Night

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Salinger (1974) calls Twelfth Evening a “comedy about comedy” in which Shakespeare demonstrates his “fundamental personal debt to the before Renaissance custom of comedian playwriting and his abiding sense of distance from it” (pg 242), and it is from this level that this article will discuss functions of comedy in terms of Shakespeare abiding and deviating at various points coming from traditional Renaissance comedies and into which in turn category of funny Twelfth Nighttime can be placed. It will likewise discuss how realism helps the function of comedy in the play in the particular case of 12th Night, that function becoming primarily a celebration of both joy and of Shakespeare’s comedy for its own benefit.

Classic Renaissance humor is plainly present throughout the text, including the derisive frivolity aimed at Malvolio cross-gartered in yellow stockings or Friend Andrew unsuspicious in the make fun of duel. The audience laughing at Malvolio provides to poker fun at him even more for his folly, but also will serve comedy worth in noticeably Shakespearian terms, we laugh at Malvolio to players him away and show the dislike of him as they ruins the fun. This is what Charlton (1966) picks as certain of a William shakespeare comedy, the characters “inspire us to be happy with them, they do not simply cajole all of us into laughing at them” (pg 277) and so our ridiculing of Malvolio is not so much as being a condemnation of his personality but just one way of siding the audience with the fun-lovers of the enjoy, notably Sir Toby who claims various comic shows in the play despite his comparatively flawed character when ever considered against the puritan Malvolio.

Malvolio is ridiculed as he symbolizes puritans of the time (for model, by his dress), while puritans were largely up against the comedy custom in theater (Barton 1972, pg 164) Shakespeare presents them since against merrymaking and fun in general. We all therefore affiliate with Sir Toby and against Malvolio certainly not because of their personality, but mainly because as a group we do not want the fun to end. The personas, too, are very keen to for the enjoyment to continue and to seek new pleasures, something which for William shakespeare involves marriage as the ultimate goal in the next accepted that love provides great power to awaken the spirit to newfound delights (Charlton 1966, pg 277). This, to get Charlton, sets Shakespeare’s plays as more imaginative than his rivals’, instead of seeking out existing delight and increasing enjoyment William shakespeare has his characters constantly striving for beliefs and, because of love/marriage, become “finer and richer reps of human being nature” (Charlton 1966, pg 283).

The primacy of love intended for enrichment of spirit and opening of new avenues of enjoyment, as discussed in the previous passage, is important in Twelfth Night’s funny as, if music is definitely “the food of love” (Shakespeare 93, pg 29), then much music is necessary to nourish the spirit which is the most musical technology of Shakespeare’s plays. Music therefore performs a major position in the play from the duke’s players to Clown’s music and increases the carnival, boisterous mood the fact that play itself is a party. Much of the farce (paragraph below) adds to the comedic celebration on stage, for example Malvolio’s humiliation landscape and the transvestite farce of Viola would be a joy to do as much as they may be to see.

Tillyard (1958) categorises comedy in to three parts, farce and two different versions of Picaresque comedy. 12th Night can be argued to adjust to into any and all of these types to some extent. Farce comes from the many laugh-out-loud occasions in the play provided by the pranks and Clown’s wry humour. The fact that Twelfth Night is additionally a transvestite comedy gives further farce to have the multiple disguises of the male actor playing a female figure who is consequently playing the role of a male. Add identical twins that are less than identical, the boisterous feelings created by simply music, as well as the pranks stated previously and all the elements of a farce exist to see. Farce, however will not serve the main function on this play because there is very little celebration of joy in a farce. Although an audience may possibly laugh wholly, the comedic devices described below need to combine with intense realism if the play is usually to have any effect about its market, that is to say, a fantastic farce are unable to bring the viewers into party with the characters because the empathy simply is certainly not present in a huge enough quantity.

The first various Picaresque comedy, effectively concentrating on the under dog, Tillyard states to be lack of in Twelfth Night however the principals stay, Clown is definitely our under dog who is remaining alone (unmarried, but as well literally remaining alone in stage) plus the collective group, excepting Malvolio and his risk of vengeance, fulfils the underdog role of only “and simply just” (Tillyard 1958, pg 6) making it through disaster. This feeling is definitely heightened throughout the final confrontation when Shakespeare suddenly adjustments from the entire to verse to hyperlink with Sebastian arriving which has a solution to dash on with all the happy finishing. Again, this does not fully give you the play with the celebration of joy that may be its principal function. Absolutely one can empathise more together with the fool without necessarily pitying him (and perhaps even discovering him as being a bridge among Illyria plus the everyday world) but there is still not really the sense of belonging that the audience has with, for example , Sir Toby. In this, Shakespeare needs a blend of comedy strategies, and it is Tillyard’s (ibid) second variety of Picaresque funny that is the even more obvious intended for Twelfth Night time, being the need to shed the burdens of duty to self and society without paying too severe a price¦[recognising]¦perhaps ruefully, that you cannot get away with it permanently, that holidays are holiday seasons only because they end, that mankind has after all to toe the line, and that work has the last word¦[but also finally persuading the reader that evasion has]¦had a long enough innings and that duty need to now reassert itself (Tillyard 1958, pg 6)

Which in turn, whilst not rendering as much convivial laughter while pure farce, is used by Shakespeare to lighten the mood and spirits of his viewers. Whilst duty and the actual gets the final term, it is a refreshed reality in to which all of us enter. It itself refers to a “festive and crucial passage of time” during which the character types are “swept out with their previous selves and brought into a fresh harmony with a organic order and sequence in life” (Salinger 1974, pg 13), that is to say the numerous partnerships promise a harmonisation with natural order but also, crucially, an excellent return to the typical state of affairs. Everything has been taken out of the heroes by disguise, deception, the “season of misrule” (Salinger 1974, pg 8) and tragedies of shipwreck is definitely wonderfully restored with added value, for example , Viola not simply regains her brother but also a lover. Viola’s trust in natural forces and being human when your woman leaves this to a chance to untie the knots which will she cannot (Shakespeare 1993, pg 48) puts a trust in the natural stability having the ability to regrow and, throughout the ending, provide something extra to those with spirits rampacked by love (see earlier discussion).

Here, then simply, the audience finally gets to enjoy joy with all the characters given that the wholeness of the enjoy and its range of comedic approaches has added to its realistic look.

Even though realism acts to add to the celebration of joy this provides the function of comedy in Twelfth Night, comedy likewise serves reciprocally to add realistic look to the play whilst likewise providing what would be called today a suspension of disbelief, just as a tragedy teases the group with bogus hope ahead of the disaster, therefore Twelfth Nighttime teases us with bogus disaster ahead of the happy finishing. This, in respect to Barton (1972, pg 164) increases the realism of Twelfth Night time whilst keeping true to the conventional social standpoint of a comedy.

In Twelfth Night the fake disaster recommended during the deadlock in the final act comes when actuality starts to re-enter the play and the celebration comes to an end. Intended for Sir Toby, he is rejected the cosmetic surgeon he demands because the surgeon is consumed. We are finally seeing Tillyard’s (1958, pg 6) reassertion of work, it is throughout the nightly excess and party in which Friend Toby was so instrumental that he’s now denied the practicalities of amounts that has not been necessary inside the utopia of misrule. Additionally, Barton (1972) suggests that Friend Toby getting married to Maria is comparable to Sir Andrew’s repentance, they are both paying for all their holidays in “ways which may have real life consequences” (pg 175). Thankfully, to get the audience and characters, the disaster under no circumstances comes.

However , the realism furnished by acknowledgment of its probability makes the finishing easier to acknowledge whilst likewise giving the sensation of subterfuge disaster (Tillyard’s first label of Picaresque humor, see above). This pain relief, again experienced both viewers and characters, adds to this kind of celebration of joy, rather than accepting Barton’s argument that the knights are forced to pay for their particular holidays, it can be argued that the opposite applies and that Sirs Toby and Andrew basically celebrate that a lot of satisfying and joyful of human emotions ” leaving with doing something wrong. The comedy value here is just increased by simply Malvolio’s last cursing and promise of revenge, Friend Toby (and his sympathetic audience) include once again received the better of him even when it is dubious whether he earned to or perhaps not, after all Sir Toby is reliant on others like Malvolio to hold him in the life of leisure.

Even though Clown’s final song refers to matrimony becoming tedious and the moving of time agonizing, audience optimism is managed despite this realization, the lovers of the perform may be in the distant and mysterious Illyria but that place is brought back into the reality of the audience given that the festive period is definitely ending due to the aforementioned realistic look that Shakespeare brings to this comedy. Barton (1972, pg 164) describes the period of the title as a time if the world is definitely turned the other way up and there is a consistent holiday soul. At the start with the play, it’s the captain that introduces Illyria as a place in which should be expected madness but it really is during Clown’s tune that Illyria comes nearer to England, the disguises and deception fall season away and natural order (and, debatably, rule) bring back with the heroes intact with redeemed spirits and completely happy endings. By maintaining realism through the play in such a distant location, Shakespeare may bring this optimism home through his mixture of Tillyard’s funny variations.

In conclusion, funny functions in Twelfth Nighttime to provide convivial laughter/celebration of joy and an confidence of human nature and the capacity for regeneration. This blend of amusing styles followed by William shakespeare does not in shape neatly in any one category but the function can be clearly shown by simply its impact, the added realistic look dimension irrespective of an implausible ending, and a symbolism of matrimony as revival and rebirth following required disruption, carnival and “madness” (Barton 72, pg 164) of the festivity. Given that Twelfth Night is commonly held to become Shakespeare’s previous comedy of its type, Tillyard (1958, pg 17) states the fact that play “is not so certain of itself because comedy and may even also be on the way to something else”, what Salinger (1974, pg 242), as stated in the introduction to this essay, calls a “comedy about comedy”. Using this perspective, the widespread content ending and good fortune can be interpreted since an deliberate farewell, whereby the funny devices in Twelfth Evening serve mostly to focus the audience on Shakespeare’s celebration of joy and good times since discussed throughout this essay. Shakespeare is usually using such a diverse and far-reaching blend of comedy with all the primary function being a special event of not simply Renaissance funny but likewise his personal comedy heritage and musical legacy of performs.


Barton, A. (1972). As You Like It and Twelfth Night: Shakespeare’s Perception of an Closing. In: Bradbury, M. and Palmer, G. [eds. ]. Shakespearian Comedy. London: Edward Arnold.

Charlton, H. (1966). Shakespearian Humor. London: Methuen.

Salinger, L. (1974). Shakespeare plus the Traditions of Comedy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Shakespeare, Watts. (1993). Twelfth Night. Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Ltd.

Tillyard, E. (1958). The Nature of Humor and William shakespeare. Oxford: Oxford University Press

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