Comedy in Twelfth Night
Henry Eshel 1ES2
How does Shakespeare create comic effect in the first part of the play?
Twelfth Night is a comedy by Shakespeare. It is also known as "What You Will", which prepares the audience for a jovial atmosphere, consisting of drink, dance, and giving in to general self-indulgence. Often said to be one of Shakespeare's more 'mature' comedies, it would be interesting to see just how he creates this comic effect in the first part of this fascinating play.
Let us begin with structure. The play is constructed in such a way that the audience is aware of things that characters of the play are not - there is a quid pro quo. For example, the audience is aware that Viola is disguised as Cesario, but the other characters are not, which is quite comic. The structure also indicates what is to happen later: Sebastian and Antonio talking shows that Sebastian, Viola's brother, is alive, and this will create a comic effect when he comes face to face with Cesario - his 'sister'.
Later on in the play, Malvolio is tricked into believing that Olivia is taken by him and therefore acts foolishly in front of her. But in short, the play is set up in three parts: the exposition, which sets up the main characters and the situation that will lead to conflict, the development, which builds up the dramatic tension to reach a climax of the conflict which is shortly followed by the denouement which presents a resolution to the conflict.
Moving on to examine the language of the play, Shakespeare uses it to convey different emotions in certain scenes as well as define a character. In terms of comedy, one must focus on the wordplays, puns and other such devices.