Twelfth Night was written by William Shakespeare in 1600 and was performed at the Royal Palace on the 6th January 1601. Shakespeare’s men who were also known as the Lord Chamberlains men performed it for Queen Elizabeth I. Shakespeare wrote the play for the Queen herself so that on the 6th January, which is the Christian feast of the Epiphany, Twelfth Night, she could celebrate it with some entertainment at court. The play was commissioned to please Elizabeth and was to be shown for her enjoyment.
Twelfth night is traditionally about when everything gets turned on its head like masters waiting for their servants and this is what happens in the play. Many of Shakespeare’s plays were written for comedy, a bit of a laugh and a joke but they all have different types of comic purpose. Shakespeare’s comic purpose in Twelfth Night is all based around the theme of disguise, and the problems it can cause. The disguise plays a big part in the play. This is seen when Viola pretends to be Cesario to work for Orsino in order to find her brother. This disguise plays a big part in the comedy of the play.
Orsino says ” Who saw Cesario, ho? ” and Viola replies ” On your attendance, my lord here. ” This shows us straight away that disguise will play a big part in the play because Olivia is pretending to be a man in a all man household when she is really a lady. However it is not the only type of humour. Humour is everywhere in the play, from Malvolio wearing cross-gartered yellow stockings to Sir Toby Belch mistaking Sebastian for Cesario, (Viola), which ends up in them duelling. Sir Toby says ” Come, sir, I will not let you go. Come, my young soldier, put up you iron: you are well fleshed come on! However Olivia brakes it up just as they are going to duel.
Twelfth Night is as much about love and revenge as about disguise. We can see this at the end of the play when Orsino marries Viola and Olivia marries Sebastian. At the start of the play however Orsino and Olivia pretend to have love. We know it is pretend love because Olivia does not normally wear black and she vows to wear black for seven years and also Orsino doesn’t normally song love songs but he does, ” O spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou” Orsino singing like this shows us that he is not in real love but ion pretend love.
It is also seen throughout the whole play for example Sir Toby and Maria’s love. We also see revenge, and quite spiteful revenge. This happens when the Puritan Malvolio is locked up in a dark cell by Sir Toby, Feste, Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Fabian just because he tried from stopping them having fun. Around the time when Shakespeare wrote the play the Puritans were starting to rise to power. Puritans were extreme Protestants who didn’t believe in people enjoying themselves. They wanted Theatres, Ale Houses and lots of other fun things banned.
They usually wore brown or grey but not black because black was expensive, and they didn’t believe in spending a lot of money. They believed in a plain way of preaching to God, so they didn’t believe in stained glass windows in churches. They were radicals and religious fanatics that a lot of people didn’t like because they didn’t believe in people having fun. Even though these Puritans were not popular they were starting to get quite a lot of political power and a lot more followers were starting to support the Puritans.
Shakespeare however despised of the Puritans because they were trying to close down theatres, and if they had succeeded he would of lost his business. So Malvolio in the context of the play is Shakespeare’s swipe at the Puritans and this is why Sir Toby, Feste, Sir Andrew, Maria and Fabian treat Malvolio so harshly. In the play Malvolio is treated harshly because he is a puritan and we know this because Maria says, ” Marry sir, he is a kind of puritan” talking about Malvolio.
However the play is predominately about people disguising themselves as different people for example Viola changes her appearance to become a boy called Cesario but also people like Sir Andrew who do not change their appearance but pretend to be people they are not, Sir Andrew pretends to be a Noble man when all he really is, is a coward. The way Shakespeare achieves his comedy is by running two plots throughout the play, the main plot and the sub plot. So when these two plots merge he gets the comedy he wants.
The main plot is for the main characters and main story lines like Olivia falling in love with Cesario. The sub plot is for different characters with their own agenda through the play like Sir Andrew trying to get with Olivia but not succeeding. So this is his agenda throughout the play as well as being a part of the main plots. The main characters in the play play a very important part in the comedy of the play. One of the main characters is Orsino; he is the Duke of Illyria.
His main presence in the play is that he is the man that starts the whole love triangle between himself, Olivia and Viola. Orsino seems to love the fact of loving Olivia and keeps sending his servants to her courtyard to try and speak to her, but it does not work because Olivia’s brother and father have just died and she has sworn she won’t see a man or speak to a man for seven years. Orsino and Olivia both have very different views on love, but both are obsessive kinds of love.
Orsino’s love is therefore a disguise because it is not real it is fake. It is a way of deceiving people because in fact he does not actually love Olivia in the sense of real love. He is pretending to be in love and this is a type of disguise, but not the usual type of disguise. Although Orsino’s love is a type of disguise it is not the only type of disguised love. Olivia’s love for Cesario is a kind of disguised love because it is not real because what Olivia does not know is that Cesario is in fact a girl called Viola.
This brings great comedy to the play because the people watching will know that Cesario is actually a girl but in the play Olivia does not know this, so she does everything she can to get Cesario to love her, This is seen when she sends Malvolio with her ring to give to Cesario, just so Malvolio can tell her to come back the next day so that she can tell Cesario why she does not love Orsino, but in fact she just wants to spend more time with Viola who she thinks is Cesario. Malvolio says to Viola “ She returns this ring to you, sir. ”
And Viola replies, “ She took the ring of me. I’ll none of it. Viola then realises that Olivia loves her when she actually loves Orsino. This is when the whole love triangle starts to fall into place. Olivia plays a different role from the normal women did in those days. It is a change from the ‘ man world’ as they called it because men were always in charge. This is because instead of Sir Toby being in charge of the household, Olivia is, so she has more power than Sir Toby does. In Shakespeare’s time this was very rare and it goes against the grain. We learn in the play that Sir Toby is not happy about Olivia being in charge instead of him.
During the play there are quite a few Social, Historical and Cultural points that are of importance to the play. On of the historical points is the changing role in women. We can see it is changing because there is a Queen ruling and not a King. When before that there always seemed to be a King ruling. One social change is the rise of the Puritans. This is a social change because they are trying to stop everyone having fun by banning and closing downs things like theatres and Alehouses. Malvolio tries to do the same in Olivia’s house.
Sir Toby and Sir Andrew Aguecheek have been drinking a Malvolio comes downs airs and says to them “ Do ye make an ale-house of my lady’s house, that ye squeak out your coziers’ catches without any mitigation or remorse of voice? ” This again shows that the puritans hated ale-houses. In the time of Shakespeare when people wanted to duel it was known to send someone else to challenge the person you wanted to duel. Even though duelling was illegal it was still done because if people did not get on they would have to settle it somehow and the only way they could think of was duelling.
So duelling is important to the play because of its cultural importance in the time of the play. Another big cultural thing in those times was that too woo a women you needed to be able to dance, play an instrument, fence, sing or write poetry, speak a few languages and wear good clothes. Also if you wanted to chat up a woman someone else had to be in the room, we see this when Cesario comes to speak to Olivia. One of Olivia’s servants is in the room as well. We can see this because Olivia says to Malvolio before Viola comes into speak to her. She says to him “ Let him approach. Call in my gentlewoman.
This shows us that someone lese had to be in the room and you couldn’t speak to them privately unless the lady wanted to. In Shakespeare’s time they didn’t know of mental illnesses so they would say that the person was possessed by the devil. We see this when Maria is speaking about Malvolio to Olivia ” He is sure possessed, Madam” This is because they did not have the knowledge or technology to know what was wrong with people so they would just say they were possessed when in fact they actually had a mental illness. A social activity in the times of the play as well as going to the theatre was bear baiting and it was very popular.
It is where a bear would fight a number of well-trained hunting dogs until the bear died or all the dogs had died. Elizabeth I enjoyed Bear baiting and when an attempt to ban baiting on Sundays was made, she decided to overrule Parliament. In the play Shakespeare uses disguise to suit his comic purpose, as we know. Throughout the acts the disguise is different and lots of different things happen because of the role of disguise. Disguise is a main part of the characters role in the play because people think they are different people than what they really are.
One of these people is Sir Andrew Aguecheek and he makes Sir Toby believe that he can do things he cannot. Sir Toby is talking about Sir Andrew and says “ And hath all the good gifts of nature. ” So Sir Andrew has disguised as someone he is not. In the play Act 1 establishes the disguise in the play and during the act disguise becomes linked with deceit. We see this when Viola, a girl, needs to get a job and because she will not be able to get a job at Olivia’s because she is mourning she has to try and get a job at Orsino’s.
To do this she has to use disguise. She uses disguise because in Orsino’s household, which is the only place she can get work, there is only men allowed to work there. Why she has to disguise herself is because she has been shipwrecked along with her brother, but she believes her brother to be dead and so has to get a job in Illyria to settle herself and find out things. So she dresses up as a man called Cesario and deceits Orsino to be able to work in his household. We know this disguise works straight away because Orsino sends Cesario to Olivia’s courtyard.
He says to Cesario ” Therefore, good youth, address thy gait unto her, be not denied access, stand at her doors. ” So we know her disguise has worked to work for Orsino because he sends her on a job to try and talk to Olivia and tell her how much Orsino loves her. Also in Act 1 the friendship between Sir Toby and Sir Andrew is fake. We can see this straight away when Sir Toby is speaking to Maria about Sir Andrew. He says, ” He’s as tall a man as any’s in Illyria” Here Maria replies ” What’s that to th’ purpose? ” and Sir Toby replies “ Why, he has three thousand ducats a year.
This shows us that Sir Toby only really cares about Sir Andrew money and nothing else. As the play goes on we realise why Sir Andrew has come to stay with Sir Toby, and it is because Sir Toby said to Sir Andrew that if he comes Sir Toby will do everything he can to set him up with Olivia, but all Sir Toby really wants is to use his money to spend on drinking and going out and having a good time. The audience however knows Sir Andrew has no chance with Olivia once she falls in love with who she thinks is Cesario, and Sir Andrew realises this but Sir Toby persuades him to stay.
We also can tell that Sir Toby and Sir Andrews friendship is fake because when Sir Toby is speaking to Maria again he says, ” He’s a coward and a coistrel that will not drink to my niece till his brains turn o’ th’ toe, like a parish top. What wench Castiliano vulgu, for her comes Sir Andrew Agueface. ” These words can be described in lots of way about the feelings Sir Toby has about Sir Andrew. First of all he calls him a coward and a coistrel, which also means knave or villain. So we can see straight away he thinks Sir Andrew is not a true friend.
Then he says “ Castilliano vulgu” which means keep a straight face, because Sir Toby and Maria must have been laughing about what Sir Toby had said and they do not want Sir Toby to find out. Then lastly he says, “ For here comes Sir Andrew Agueface. ” Either Sir Toby does not know Sir Andrews whole name, which would mean he cannot be a true friend because all true friends would know their friends forename. Or he is making fun out of Sir Andrews’s forename, which would show us, the audience, that he does not actually like Sir Andrew. This leads onto Sir Andrew’s disguise.
He disguises himself as the perfect Elizabethan Courtier like Sir Francis Drake. However he is not, he is a coward and he puts on an act. To be a good Courtier you have to have certain standards and Sir Andrew lies about having these standards, so therefore is a liar. By the end of the play everyone in the play and the audience realises Sir Andrew is not the perfect Elizabethan Courtier and is in fact a coward who does not have the credentials to be a Nobel man that he says he is. We know that he is disguising himself because he has convinced Sir Toby he can speak three or four languages and play an instrument.
Sir Toby says to Maria ” Fie that you’ll say so! He plays o’ th’ viol-de-gamboys, and speaks three or four languages word for word without book, and hath all the good gifts of nature” Sir Andrew has tricked Sir Toby in to believing he can do all these things, when really he can’t. We also can only assume that Sir Andrew’s three thousand ducats a year he gets is properly inherited. Sir Sndrew is like the Earl of Southampton who got Shakespeare to writ sonnets for him. The last type of disguise in Act 1 is Orsino’s feelings. He pretends to be in love.
We see this in the first line of the play when he is speaking to his servant who is playing music, “ If music be the food of love, play on” He is coming out with all these weird sayings and pretending that he is deeply in love when in fact he is not. So Orsino’s love is a disguise to all his servants and himself because deep down he knows he does not love Olivia but he really wants to so he pretends to. Act two also brings disguise into the play but in different forms. One of the different forms is in the way Malvolio acts.
Malvolio is meant to be a Puritan and in that meaning that he does not believe in sex outside marriage, not meant to be ambitious and wears plain clothing. In Act two he does the complete opposite to these things. This makes Malvolio a hypocrite because he tells people Like Sir Toby and Sir Andrew off for acting inappropriately and then he goes and acts inappropriately himself. Why Malvolio acts so inappropriately is because when he tells Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Maria off for making a lot of noise in the early hours of the morning they decide to play a trick on him.
So the write a letter and leave it where they know Malvolio will pick it up, but it is not a letter from them. Maria disguises her writing as that of Olivia’s so that Malvolio thinks Olivia has wrote the letter. So disguise is used again this time against Malvolio so that he will become a laughing stock. In the letter it says that Olivia has loved Malvolio for a long time and that she says she likes yellow stockings that are gross-gartered. “ Remember who condemned they yellow stockings, and wished to see thee ever cross-gartered. ” So Malvolio thinks this is true and acts upon it immediately.
He goes and puts on some yellow stockings and cross-garters them and goes to see Olivia. When he goes to Olivia he gets quite a shock because instead of a grateful welcoming that he is expecting, instead she is bamboozled by what he is wearing. We see this because Malvolio says to Olivia ” Sweet lady, ho, ho! ” and she replies “ Smil’st thou? I sent for thee upon a sad occasion. ” We can see Malvolio has been tricked and he is quite bemused by it all but thinks Olivia is just playing with him. Then Olivia says “ Wilt thou go to bed, Malvolio? ” and Malvolio replies ” To bed?
Ay, sweetheart, and I’ll come to thee” So Malvolio now thinks Olivia is asking him if they want to go to bed together but she is actually asking him if he wants to go to bed to get some rest. This shows us that Malvolio is a total hypocrite because he fancies Olivia and has done for some time. Also we can see that he is quite a lusty man and tries to approach Olivia when Puritans are not meant to do this. Overall Malvolio uses is Puritan believes as a disguise to get respect and for people to do what he asks of them when really he is a lusty, sex fanatic man who wants to become the master of the house.
Malvolio’s love for Olivia is both in Act two and three and this love is the downfall for Malvolio. Viola, who is Cesario in Act two, also disguises her love for Orsino by telling him what she feels for him but pretending to be a boy talking about love. This is very dramatic irony because she is pretending to be someone else telling Orsino about love when in fact she loves him and is talking about her love for him. The other person in Act two that disguises himself, is Fabian. He, like Sir Toby pretends to be friends with Sir Andrew.
We see this when they joke around with each other while punishing Malvolio. Fabian says “ And ‘ O’ shall end, I hope. ” Then Sir Andrew says, ” Ay, or I’ll cudgel him, and make him cry ‘ O’! ” This shows us Fabian trying to joke around with Sir Andrew, when all Fabian is, is a gardener. So slaves do not normally joke around with Nobel men, or supposed Nobel men. So Fabian friendship with Sir Andrew is a disguise like everyone else’s friendship with Sir Andrew. Disguise is now starting to play a very important role in the play but in Act three it starts to slip sometimes.
In Act three disguise starts to slip. We see this when Cesario who is actually Viola starts to look and speak like a girl again, and this is picked up on by Sir Toby and Sir Andrew. This is because when Sir Andrew wants to duel Viola, she does not want to because of course she is a girl and it was very rare for girls to duel. Viola says ” I will return again into the house, and desire some conduct of the lady. I am no fighter. I have heard of some kind of men that put quarrels purposely on others to taste their valour: belike this is a man of that quirk.
This shows she does not want to duel and if she was a man, which they think she is, they would think of her cowardly so this is why her disguise is starting to slip, because any decent man would rise to the duel but she is backing away from it like a girl would. So Violas disguise as Cesario is starting to slip because she does not have all the credentials a man would need in Shakespeare’s time i. e. being able to duel. Also Viola starts to speak to Olivia how she wants Orsino to speak to her and pretends to be speaking on Orsino’s half when she is speaking from her own heart.
She says “ ith the same haviour that your passion bears goes on my master’s grief’s. ” This shows that she is talking to Olivia how she wants Orsino to speak to her because she loves Orsino. The other disguise in the play is a man called Antonio who was in the same shipwreck as Viola and her brother Sebastian. His name is Antonio. He disguises himself as a clergyman as he is wanted by The Illyrians for war crimes. His disguise is found out when Illyrian soldiers see him in the street and chase him to Olivia’s courtyard where he is arrested.
However when he gets there a lot off confusion is made because Antonio who has met both Sebastian and Viola, and them being identical twins, thinks that Viola is Sebastian. The confusion starts when Antonio asks Viola for some of the money that he actually gave to Sebastian, “ I must entreat of you some of that money. ” And Olivia replies “ What money Sir? ” Violas disguise cause confusion because now someone that has seen her and her brother and thinks that she is someone else and now everyone starts asking questions and a lot of comedy comes into play.
Now Viola starts to realise that her brother like her survived the shipwreck and is on the same island as her. Disguise plays a final role in the play in Act four when Feste, Olivia’s fool, dresses up as a priest called Sir Topas and disguises himself to drive a man mad and that man is Malvolio, because Sir Topas is not real. Feste goes to the palce where Malvolio is locked up and because it is not very light his disguise works.
Malvolio says to him “ Sir Topas, Sir Topas, Sir Topas, good Sir Topas, got to my lady! and then Feste replies pretending to me Sir Topas, “ Out, hyperbolical fiend! How vexest thou this man! Talkest thou nothing but of ladies? ” Feste winds up Malvolio to the time that Malvolio himself thinks he is going mad. In Act Five disguise is abandoned all together. Firstly Cesario is back to Olivia. Sir Toby tells Sir Andrew that he is no friend of his. Sir Andrew then admits that he is no good and is a coward. Both Olivia and Orsino realise they can properly love.
Olivia falls in love with Sebastian and Orsino falls in love with Viola, and they have a joint wedding. Feste then admits to Malvolio that he was really Sir Topas, and that he is not mad. Disguise in the play leads to a lot of mistaken identity and it also hides the truth of people in real situations. Finally during the play Shakespeare uses disguise to suit his comic purpose because it brings about a lot of different reactions and a lot of different things can happen when people pretend to be someone else or someone they aren’t.
He uses disguise very effectively to create jokes and humour. We see this when Feste is about to duel with Sebastian when Olivia intervenes and starts kissing Sebastian and Sebastian can not believe it because he has never seen this lady before. Also it brings laughs when Malvolio tries to get into bed with Olivia wearing cross-gartered yellow stockings when she really thinks he looks ridiculous. Overall Shakespeare uses disguise very well to create a comedy for Elizabeth’s entertainment.