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    Twelfth night Persuasive Essay (1625 words)

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    Throughout the play Olivia can be considered one of the three main characters that accepts best the societal roles placed upon her and follows the orthodox rules imposed on her the most. Nevertheless, Olivia does still take a stand, which is against the orthodox and continues to do this right until the end of the play. By falling in love with the disguised Viola Olivia allows herself to love another woman in the way she should only consider loving a male character.

    Olivia, however, is not aware of the fact that she is desiring a female as she only ever meets the character of Viola dressed as Cesario until the end of the play. However, it is worth noting that Olivia does become ‘infatuated with feminine qualities’3 that are displayed to her by Cesario, but she fails to see these as being female qualities at the same time. She therefore can be consider on this point to be the one who fits in with the orthodox view taken by society, still though she fails to fully fit into the role determined for her by this orthodoxy on other areas of her life.

    Within the play, Olivia can be considered, as a character that feels she has to hide from what she actually is, a female4. By being in charge of a household and running it successfully, and also by having a male relative who is dependent on her generosity and money, she appears to be encouraging the theory that she has many masculine qualities, it could be said that she has all the masculine qualities the Duke fails to have.

    This notion of her being desperate to be thought of as having masculine qualities can be seen by her asking Sebastian (who she thinks is Cesario) to marry her where the orthodox approach would be for the male to ask her to marry him. By the conclusion of the play Olivia has fulfilled a female normality of the time and is wed to the one, she thinks she loves (Sebastian although she thinks he is Cesario) and this can be considered as imposing the orthodox on her character.

    When considering when the orthodox is re-imposed upon the characters at the end of Twelfth Night the characters of Sir Toby and Maria need to be taken into consideration. Throughout the play the character of Sir Toby is portrayed as being a drunk who is dependent upon Olivia for his existence. This can be considered as a role reversal because in Elizabethan society it would normally be the females (or other male family members) dependent upon the male heads of families for support, while in this play it is a female who supports his lifestyle.

    The fact that Sir Toby is a drunk could conceivable considered an accurate interpretation of a male who did not need to work within Elizabethan society. Maria however can be considered as portraying herself accurately within the confines of society as she works as Olivia’s maid to earn her keep and never really steps into the male role, except perhaps in consideration to her role in the deceit played upon Malvolio. At the end of the play, Maria and Sir Toby come together and the play leaves them intending to get married.

    This is an imposition of the orthodox in so much as the fact that the two end up with a suitable partner for each other concerning the sexes of the two. However this relationship also presents the unorthodox as it shows Maria marrying out of her social class and into a higher one, and also it leaves unanswered the reason for the marriage of the two, whether it is love and desire or whether they marry simply to evade the consequences of their actions with regards to the trick of Malvolio.

    In Twelfth Night, the characters of Malvolio and Feste also need to be considered as to whether they are at the end of the play imposed upon to follow the orthodoxy of the society. In consideration of Feste, it can be said that the end of the play marks his return to the character he plays at the beginning, but lost towards the end when he became embroiled in the plot of trickery against Malvolio. At the establishment of Feste, the audience is introduced to the role of the fool who transcends social class boundaries and legitimately makes fun of both worlds in the name of comedy.

    Feste is never portrayed as being directly involved in the action of any of the characters, although he insinuates he is very much aware of the fact the Cesario is actually a woman, and this allows him to remain outside of the action will being a narrator of types for all the characters. When Feste does become part of the trickery of Malvolio and pretends to be Sir Topas, his character becomes a main part in the darker side of the comical play and this is unorthodox for his character.

    The character, which the audience is first introduced to at the beginning of the play, re-emerges at the end of the play and so it can be said that Feste has an imposing of what is orthodox for his character through the ending. The character of Malvolio is the one character that at the end of the play has none of what he normally is throughout the rest of the play given back to him. When Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, Fabian and Maria conspire and trick Malvolio for the sole purpose of then declaring him as ‘crazy’ he loses all that he has previously had and is locked away.

    Through the rest of the play, it is revealed that Malvolio wishes to marry Olivia and make himself higher in the social classes of society and it is through the love for himself that he feels that he is justified in attempting to take this course of action. Malvolio never gets to achieve this aim, and it is probable that he never would anyway even without the interference of the conspirators, and this would have been unusual to happen in society during this period in history anyway so therefore in this respect it could be said that normality was brought to Malvolio.

    However when he is declared as ‘crazy’ he loses his position within society and by the end of the play although the plot against him is uncovered he never full recovers from this taint and therefore it could be considered that he has not fully had restored to him what he would ‘normally’ have. Antonio’s character within Twelfth Night can be seen as being both one of orthodoxy and unorthodoxy simultaneously, and by the end of the play he can be described as having what is deemed orthodox re-imposed upon him.

    ‘Antonio’s impassioned friendship for Sebastian is one of those ardent attachments between young people of the same sex which Shakespeare frequently presents with his positive emphasis, as exhibiting the loving and lovable qualities later expressed in love for the other sex. ‘(p246)5 The relationship of Antonio and Sebastian therefore can be seen as unorthodox as it can be defined in modern day terms as being one of a homosexual nature. However, to the early modern audience this would be interpreted simple as being normal as there was not the present day terms of homo/hetero sexual to define it in any other terms but that of normalcy.

    At the end of the play Antonio ‘loses’ Sebastian to Olivia and therefore the modern reader, whom can be said to interpret their relationship in a sexual manner, is able to say this issue is resolved by a re-imposition of the orthodox. Twelfth Night can be seen as having a mark of orthodoxy re-imposed upon it by the end, however with regards certain issues it keeps its unorthodoxy and refrains from having societal norms imposed. By the end of the play, Shakespeare has successfully returned the gender roles, which are made ambiguous in the play to what they would have considered in Elizabethan society as being successful.

    With the ending of the play he also has also ensured that all, male and female desires are matched in a heterosexual match and that there are no homoerotic relationships of desire left in their entirety. It is however not fully imposed upon by the orthodox as the relationship between Viola and Orisino can be considered as being unorthodox in respect to his love for illusion of Cesario and not the person of Viola. Furthermore, although most characters are returned to their normal selves by the end of the play the character of Malvolio proves to be the exception and remains the character that the orthodoxy of all others is kept from.

    Bibliography Shakespeare, W. (Ed. Watts, C. ) Twelfth Night Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions, 1993 Eagleton, T. William Shakespeare Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986 Danson, L. Shakespeare’s Dramatic Genres Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000 Waller G. (Ed. ) Shakespeare’s Comedies Essex: Addison Wesley Longham, 1996 Leggatt, A. (Ed. ) The Cambridge Companion to Shakespearean Comedy Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002 Pennington, M. Twelfth Night: A User’s Guide London: Nick Hern Books, 2000 http://www. mala. bc. ca/~johnstoi/eng366/lectures/twelfthnight. htm – lecture prepared by Ian Johnston of Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo.

    (January 2001) 1 Penny Gay, As She Likes It Shakespeare’s Unruly Women (London: Routledge, 1994) 2 Twelfth Night study guide at www. sparknotes. com 3 C. L. Barber Shakespeare’s Festive Comedies (USA: Princeton University Press. 1990) 4 G. K. Hunter Shakespeare: The Later Comedies (Essex: Longmans, Green and Co. 1962) 5 C. L. Barber Shakespeare’s Festive Comedies (USA: Princeton University Press. 1990) Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Twelfth Night section.

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