Literary Analysis of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night Essay
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Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is a play with themes that parallel the folly of the festival it is named after. The main storyline of the plot plays on this a lot by mixing up the stereotypes around gender that were very present at the time. However, a sub-plot involving secondary characters defines this theme even more. It takes the idea even further by relating servants’ attempts to blur the lines between social classes. Twelfth Night’s Maria and Malvolio both have great aspirations to rise above their social class. However, Maria succeeds where Malvolio fails because of her capability to make use of the satiric ambiance of her mistress’s household to achieve her goals.
To begin this essay, I will provide a brief analysis of the…show more content…
In Shakespeare’s play, Malvolio and Maria both wish to do this; one by courting Olivia, and the other by trying to get closer to Sir Toby. The main difference between the two characters is Malvolio’s self-adulation and lust for power in comparison of Maria’s cleverness and her willingness to put her immediate wants aside to ultimately satisfy her craving for a better social standing at a later time. Malvolio’s immediate addiction to power and wish to get revenge on others overcomes any will he could have to play a part to access a higher social status.
While some may think that Malvolio is essentially a moral and just person, this can be disproved by shedding more light on his less-honourable practices, like his abuse of power. Essentially, like it is pointed out even by her mistress (INSERT QUOTE), Malvolio is just an extensively pompous person. Personality-wise, his narcistic and patronizing ways are made to recall those of a nobleman. These traits fit in easily with his character, as he obviously aspires to be part Illyria’s nobility one day (INSERT QUOTE). The essence of Malvolio’s personality is ascertained by Maria when she describes him as a Puritan (INSERT QUOTE). In the Elizabethan era, Puritans were stereotypically associated with being kill-joys and an excessive hatred of theatre.
Maria is one of Twelfth Night’s characters whose superior intellect seemingly clashes with her social standing
Read an in-depth analysis of Viola.
Read an in-depth analysis of Orsino.
Read an in-depth analysis of Olivia.
Sebastian - Viola’s lost twin brother. When he arrives in Illyria, traveling with Antonio, his close friend and protector, Sebastian discovers that many people think that they know him. Furthermore, the beautiful Lady Olivia, whom he has never met, wants to marry him. Sebastian is not as well rounded a character as his sister. He seems to exist to take on the role that Viola fills while disguised as Cesario—namely, the mate for Olivia.
Read an in-depth analysis of Malvolio.
Feste - The clown, or fool, of Olivia’s household, Feste moves between Olivia’s and Orsino’s homes. He earns his living by making pointed jokes, singing old songs, being generally witty, and offering good advice cloaked under a layer of foolishness. In spite of being a professional fool, Feste often seems the wisest character in the play.
Maria - Olivia’s clever, daring young waiting-gentlewoman. Maria is remarkably similar to her antagonist, Malvolio, who harbors aspirations of rising in the world through marriage. But Maria succeeds where Malvolio fails—perhaps because she is a woman, but, more likely, because she is more in tune than Malvolio with the anarchic, topsy-turvy spirit that animates the play.
Sir Andrew Aguecheek - A friend of Sir Toby’s. Sir Andrew Aguecheek attempts to court Olivia, but he doesn’t stand a chance. He thinks that he is witty, brave, young, and good at languages and dancing, but he is actually an idiot.
Antonio - A man who rescues Sebastian after his shipwreck. Antonio has become very fond of Sebastian, caring for him, accompanying him to Illyria, and furnishing him with money—all because of a love so strong that it seems to be romantic in nature. Antonio’s attraction to Sebastian, however, never bears fruit. Despite the ambiguous and shifting gender roles in the play, Twelfth Night remains a romantic comedy in which the characters are destined for marriage. In such a world, homoerotic attraction cannot be fulfilled.