Twelfth Night Response Essay
As you know, Twelfth Night is a comedy and comedies are ‘supposed’ to have happy endings. Indeed the ending is quite happy for most of the characters including Orsino, Olivia, Viola, Sevastian, and even Toby and Maria. The ending is far less happy, however, for a few of the characters including Antonio, Sir Andrew, and especially Malvolio. The question is: do you see this as a flaw in Shakespeare’s work or perhaps a feat maybe cause Shakespeare was trying to deliver a more complicated message than the form of a typical comedy might allow? When answering this question, please make certain to reference Festes song at the very end of the play and the mood that it creates. And, as usual, please discuss your response in detail.
The beauty of being a writer is that you allow your reader to interpret your work in a variety of ways. Being a reader, we will never truly know what Shakespeare’s true intention is when he wrote the play. But, in this person’s opinion, Shakespeare was successful in this play.
Twelfth Night: or, What You Will, is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. It is as if Shakespeare, for his last unadulterated comedy, showed us through a woman the best way to love. The situation of the clever, gentile, and disguised Viola recalls Rosalind from As You Like It. Feste, the clown of Twelfth Night, is but another variation of the fool, Touchstone, in As You Like It, who “speaks wisely what wise men do foolishly.” Here, as in all of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies, women get what they want and men get what they need.
Even Olivia, has made the mistake of falling in love with a woman disguised as a man, gets the man she wants in the form of the disguised woman’s twin brother, Sebastian. Orsino, who opens the play with his heart-sick lamentations about music and love, gets what he needs: a woman who is capable through lasting love of bringing him out of his self-indulgent melancholy into the real world, in this case, of comedy. In this sense, one might call Shakespeare quite successful since he is able to bring about very different emotions and fuses them to show the reality of life and the complexity of emotions in relationships involved in everyday life.
On the other hand, Feste’s concluding song tells about the sorry tale of those who do not end up happy or satisfied with their situation in the conclusion. Along with the indictment of Malvolio are other happy endings in the form of marriages. Although these events are delightfully optimistic, Feste’s final song lessens the hope of a completely happy ending.
The refrain of this song, which states “the rain it raineth every day,” insinuates that at any time the happiness that now occupies the characters in Illyria could at any time be swept away. It seems that in the form of a comedy, Shakespeare still wanted to show that sadness is very evident and possible in all aspects of life. Thus, Feste’s lamentations regarding life. In this sense, the song showcases a very realistic picture of how many people go through life. Shakespeare is able to show that pain and disappointment is part of life no matter how “up” life may seem.
The song as a whole seems to show maturation from innocence to experience and through this development was a continuum of “the wind and the rain.” With this song, Feste seems to suggest that even as a person goes through life, with its ups and downs, he or she must remember that at any time one can end up in an unfamiliar place with a completely different life.
Comedy and romantic bliss triumph in Twelfth Night, but through characters like Malvolio and Feste, Shakespeare leaves us with a feeling of unease. Like the feast that gives the play its name, Twelfth Night is festive and joyful—but all feast days must come to an end, the concluding song suggests, and give way to the “wind and the rain” of life. All good things come to an end.