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TallulahLMTallulahLM 25 Apr 2012 20:22
in discussion Hidden / Per page discussions » Twelfth Night

Since I am British, I am inclined to worship every individual who asserts authority over me.
I am the Dobby to your Harry, the Antonio to your Sebastian, the Macbeth to King Duncan (what up, extra references).

I don't really know where I'm going with this, but felt I needed to comment on all the British comments.
Your point is cool, too.

Don't you think we're meant to feel nostalgic for this kind of mutual servant-master relationship? If more people felt comfortable subjecting themselves to the influence of others (rather than striving for their own interests and desires), wouldn't there be a lot less conflict in the world? One of the main tensions in Twelfth Night arises because Malvolio isn't able to squash his hubris and settle for his inferior position in society. If he could instead be vulnerable, doting and endlessly content with being Olivia's servant, all the drama wouldn't have transpired!

At the same time, in saying this I almost feel like I'm proposing/bolstering a denial of individuality and self-worth.
Maybe that's just my years of upbringing in American society overriding my better judgment as a true Brit.


by TallulahLMTallulahLM, 25 Apr 2012 20:22

Before beginning this book, as a class we reviewed one definition of comedy and tragedy. We said a comedy was when characters realize their need to compromise and conform to the situation, and a tragedy was when characters don’t do this. We also labeled Malvolio as perhaps the only character in Twelfth Night who doesn’t bend, and therefore becomes the tragic character. However, I cant seem to find a time where Malvolio appears more stubborn to change than anyone else. Throughout the play, except Viola in the very beginning, all the characters put up some type of resistance to change. Orsino appears to be desperately in love with Olivia, but despite many failed attempts, he continues to love her. If he were adaptable he would just move on. Similarly, Olivia could be flexible and marry any one of the numerous people courting her. However, she doesn’t, and instead confesses her love for the only guy who doesn’t already love her, Cesario, who ends up rejecting her. Like Orsino did with her, Olivia keeps on trying to persuade Cesario to love her, which is not an adaptable action at all. Maria, who could just leave Malvolio alone and not cause any trouble, decides to go way out of her way and cause all kinds of havoc for Malvolio. Malvolio on the other hand, who yes, is kind of a grouch, is just minding his own business when he finds the letter written by Maria. Even though he does display a failure to bend to the situation when he confronts Olivia in his ridiculous outfit, the letter clearly requested his every action. Because of this, it can actually be argued that most other characters in Twelfth Night fail to adapt way more than Malvolio.
At the end, when the real flexibility of the charters is displayed, Malvolio doesn’t bend. But, to give him credit, he never gets a chance. Once Sebastian enters in Act 5 and fixes the whole situation, Orsino seems fine ending up with Viola, who originally wanted to be with Orsino so thats all good. Olivia is content with Sebastian, who has just been enticed into this marriage, but is ok with it. Toby and Maria apparently get married, which we could kind of see coming the whole time. All of these characters, though they do adapt, ultimately get what they want, or something close. However, Malvolio is freed from his cage, and barely has time to figure out that the letter was a fake before he’s shoved off stage. He literally has no time to redeem himself.
Overall, there doesn’t seem to be much suggesting that Malvolio should be the tragic character, but he still gets the but end of the stick, while everyone else ends up happily ever after when their ‘sacrifices’ were like “oh, I cant marry Cesario, so I guess ill have to have her identical twin brother who looks exactly like her”. Sorry Malvolio :(

also just to add to this real quick, even though Orsino claims to love Olivia, he never even confronts her about it directly, always relying on Cesario as his 'telephone' to transport messages back and forth. This unwillingness to actually court Olivia in person furthers the point that his love is probably not sincere, and may even be using it just to hide the fact that hes homosexual.

Just as A Midsummer Night’s Dream leaves the audience with a choice of how to interpret the edgy subjects the play brings up, Twelfth Night ends with a similar option. In this play, gender roles, homosexuality, the concept of love, and of course class distinctions are all up in the air even at the end of the play, and it is up to each individual in the audience to determine whether the play is just light hearted entertainment, or is actually suggesting something serious about society.
When Twelfth Night debuted, all female parts were performed by male actors. Twelfth Night not only pokes fun of this by confusingly casting a man as a woman pretending to be a man, but also brings this accepted normality into question. If women are not even fit to act on a stage, then isn’t there something inherently blasphemous about a woman infiltrating the court of a duke by dressing up as a male? Shakespeare probably intended the audience to react to this, but he does it while also shoving the fact that men are dressing up as women in the faces of those who feel its wrong, causing those people to question their initial thinking.
Homosexuality is also brought into the room by Orsino’s obvious flambiguity** and the fact that Olivia falls in love with a woman. Almost every guy in the play, except for sir Toby who is related to her, and I guess also Antonio, is in love with Olivia. However, after vowing not to be with any of them, the one guy who doesn’t love her is the one she breaks this vow for, and Olivia ends up loving Cesario. This also probably generated a huge reaction in the audience, because courtship as a means to acquiring a wife was a well accepted practice, and the fact that this works for no one in the play puts into question whether or not a woman is actually happy with the man she ends up with. With Olivia in fact, its the only guy who doesn’t court her who she falls in love with.
Tied closely to this is the concept of love. As we see with Malvolio, his real motivation for wanting to marry Olivia is his own desire for power, which means if he were to marry her, she would only be a means to an ends and not an ends herself. This definition of “love” is not really grounded in the emotions between two people, but rather in the greed of one individual.
Lastly, Shakespeare includes some class conflicts by separating out the noble, higher classes from the lower ones, and then assigning them unconventional roles. For instance, the higher class (Andrew, Toby, Malvolio, ect) are running around all worked up about one woman who actually may be bisexual, and are professing love when actually its just a means to self empowerment. The lower class though (mainly the fool) seems to be the voice of reason and the only one making an honest living.
At the end of the play, the fool ends similarly to Puck in Midsummer, with a song:
“A great while ago the world began, / with hey, ho, the wind and the rain, / but thats all one, our play is done, / and we’ll strive to please you every day” (5:1:428). This ending, following a slightly dreary poem about a lot of “wind and rain”, allows the audience to interpret the play however they like. On one hand, the line “a great while ago the world began” makes me think that Shakespeare wanted to remind his audience that humanity has been around much longer than Britain its traditions and ‘normalcies’. This line makes the audience have an open mind about the taboo subjects the play brings up, and causes them to think twice about their traditions. However, if they don’t want to have this open mind, they have that choice. The line “and we’ll strive to please you every day” gives the audience the option to dismiss the play as just entertainment.

**(if shakespeare can make up words, so can I)

Choices for the Audience by SamDeRoseSamDeRose, 24 Apr 2012 21:23

I’m having trouble enjoying the endings to the two Shakespeare plays we’ve read this term. I love Shakespeare’s work; he’s a genius and his plays are masterpieces that are appreciated to this day, but somehow I’ve been dissatisfied with the conclusions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night. The buildup and scene work in both plays are awesome – they’re full of wit and humor and Shakespeare really makes the audience connect with the characters he creates. However his endings seem to fall flat for me. Is that what the audience in that time period wanted? A closing with a marriage and little other substance? A Midsummer Night’s Dream ended with Hippolyta succumbing to Theseus, her conqueror, Demetrius being drugged into loving and marrying Helena, and the nobility making fun of the lower class as they try to be artists of the stage. Twelfth Night ended with Maria and Toby marrying, Olivia and Sebastian marrying, and Orsino and Cesario/Viola about to get married. While these marriages should be happy ordeals, I can’t help but think of them as very twisted and not very fitting couplings. Maria and Toby for example – so he affectionately calls her a wench a couple of times, she scolds him for being a rude drunk guest, and they both take part in the cruel pranking of Malvolio: that’s love right? Wrong. Yet Shakespeare pairs them up even though Toby doesn’t strike me as nearly as witty as Maria. Does Maria go along with it because she’s selling out and raising her social status by marrying above her class? I’ve already ranted about how Olivia and Sebastian are crazy in a previous post so I’ll refrain, but Orsino and Cesario/Viola – how weird is it that they come to be a couple? Orsino basically admits to being a homosexual by proposing to a woman dressed as a man. First he asks her if she’s really a woman, then proposes, then asks her to change into women’s clothes and they’ll get married. And of course Viola is thrilled, but I can’t really understand why. I wonder if Shakespeare’s making a point about how marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…

Katie, I totally agree with what you’ve said. I’m not the biggest fan of Shakespeare’s decision to have Sebastian come in and solve everything. Sure he’s a flexible guy but does that really mean that he should be the one to swoop in and “save the day” and steal the spotlight? Maybe it’s the feminist side of me, but I was annoyed that Shakespeare made Sebastian a protagonist in the play and let him be the key to restoring order. Sebastian only just got there, while Viola’s been sticking it out in man’s garb for several days pining after her master. By having Sebastian be the solution to the problem, Shakespeare shows that women can’t solve problems. That would probably be about right in that time period, but looking at it from a modern point of view, I can’t help but feel a tad disappointed at the use of the “knight in shining armor”. Furthermore, as I’ve voiced in a previous post, I’m frustrated that love and even marriage comes after only knowing someone for a few days. Sebastian willingly marries Olivia after only a couple of days, and although he questions how this all came to be, he doesn’t ask Olivia about it. Sebastian exerts his flexibility in the last scene of the play, but he seems to have lost that fire to grasp his bearings as we saw in his sister and himself after the disaster at sea. Instead of asking questions to find out what is going on around him, he ponders the situation for a hot second and then goes along with it because it seems like a pretty sweet deal. Additionally, Olivia still has that drama queen persona that has the potential to come out during the marriage and bite Sebastian on the butt. The audience would like to think that Olivia has grown from the beginning of the play, but I don’t think she could change so quickly. I think that personality is lurking in the shadows and I wonder what she’d do if Sebastian came home late from “work” one night. Anyways, that was a bit of a tangent, but the point I’m trying to make is that it’s interesting to think about Shakespeare’s work and delve deep into the play to discover his motives and thoughts.

I agree that the relationship between Olivia and Sebastian seems almost forced, as it all happens so quickly. One of my least favorite parts of the play is the moment when Sebastian pretends to be Cesario (Viola) in Act IV, Scene i, and he goes home with Olivia. The entire time, she thinks he is Cesario, and until Viola reveals herself, Olivia has no idea that she has been interacting with Sebastian. Following this discovery, when Olivia realizes that it was not Cesario, but Sebastian, it seems as though she should be insulted or angry that he tricked her/didn't immediately come forward with the truth of who he was. In my mind, both parties are all too eager and quick to jump into one another's arms. In reality, they don't know anything about each other. While Sebastian and Viola may be twins, that does not ensure that their personalities are exactly the same, or even similar for that matter. To me, the entire situation seems a bit fairy-tale-esque; the man and woman meet for the first time and immediately fall in love to live happily ever after? I don't see how it could work, especially in this situation. Olivia is far too accepting of the twins trickery, and it almost seems like she is settling for second best. If she was so in love with Cesario, how is it possible that she can move on and accept Sebastian for who he really is that quickly? Shouldn't she want to grieve a bit or try and wrap her mind around the fact that she was in love with a lie? I think that there was almost too much abbreviation in this part of the love story, as to me, it doesn't seem believable. However, all that being said, I do appreciate that Shakespeare was able to solve one of the more complicated love-triangles I have ever encountered.

Re: Olivia and Sebastian by katiereeveskatiereeves, 24 Apr 2012 19:14

On the first day of class Rachel pointed out that she thought Orsino might be homosexual. From the first page we do see him speaking slightly femininely. “If music be the food of love… it came over my ear like the sweet sound that breathes upon a bank of violets” (1:1:1). We see him describing music and relating it to love, and then working in a flower metaphor; some pretty feminine subjects. Then we see him totally shift gears “enough; no more. Tis not so sweet now as it was before” (1:1:8). But then we see him back to describing love and wanting to lay in “sweet beds of flowers! (1:1:42). This fickle behavior is very reminiscent of overdramatic, women-like behavior, especially because we soon see Olivia displaying similar drama in not wanting to be with a man for years, and then almost instantly falling in love with Cesario.
Though these lines do reflect a very feminine personality in Orsino, we dismissed talking about his homosexuality quickly. In Act 5 however, I feel these female similarities return. At the start of Act 5 Orsino returns to this very volatile and unpredictable flamboyance, dropping everything he is doing once Olivia enters. “Here comes the countess. Now heaven walks on earth! - … but more of that (antonio’s situation) anon, take [Antonio] aside” (5:1:96). Several lines later, Orsino changes again. “Still so cruel?… you uncivil lady” (5:1:112).
To add to this flamboyancy, Orsino seems to express his love for Cesario, before he realizes he is indeed a woman. “Kill what I love? … My thoughts are ripe with mischief. I’ll sacrifice the lamb that I do love to spit a raven’s heart within a dove” (5:1:121). Here, Orsino has not only confessed his love for his “lamb”, which he still thinks is a man, but he also again criticizes Olivia, saying she is a dove with a raven’s heart. On top of this, “my thoughts are ripe with mischief” also provokes certain ideas.
Basically all of Orsino’s actions and dialogue in Act 5 evoke some homosexuality. And even once Orsino finds out that Cesario is in fact Viola, he calls her Cesario (5:1:408). Could this be denial? Is Orsino still in love with Cesario, and actually kind of pissed she turned out to be a woman?

Apart from his inability to take a joke, Malvolio's tragic flaw seems to be his inability to recognize narcissism; both in himself and Olivia. There is no question that Malvolio gets into trouble because he believes he can attain more power than he should, that he is greater than he really is. But he is also flawed in thinking that Olivia could ever love him. The wrongness of this idea is not simply a commentary on his image of self-worth, but on the tragedy of his failure to recognize Olivia as a high-class egoist. The Olivia/Malvolio master/servant relationship is not ideal, even before Malvolio makes a fool of himself. Their relationship lacks selflessness and appreciation for others. Sebastian is able to nurture such a loving relationship with his servant because Antonio truly loves him above all else. Malvolio, it appears, loves himself and then Olivia. Because of this, Olivia doesn’t even seem to like Malvolio, let alone love him. But even if he were to lower his self-worth, and devote himself to his master before all else, I think we would find an almost equally tragic conclusion for Malvolio as the one we have now. A real narcissist, such as Olivia, could never truly love anyone else, only herself, something we see from the start of the play. Our first glimpse of Olivia is of her eye-catching flair for the dramatic; her ability to make the focus of her brother's death her own sadness. She tries to project an image of herself as virtuous and self-effacing in the midst of tragedy, and it is evident that she has completely bought into her own fantasy. She absolutely loves herself for it. We see how shallow this plea for attention really is in her quick change of heart upon meeting Cesario, as interacting with him is a new platform for her to perform. This is why at the end of the play, Olivia is more than happy to marry Sebastian despite not knowing him at all. She doesn't need to know him, it is not Sebastian the person that she loves, it is his attention to her, (and maybe the fact that he’s hot). But Malvolio fails to recognize Olivia's self-absorption, and dares to dream that she might have noticed him, appreciated him as a person as much as she appreciates herself. So while Malvolio is truly unlikeable in many ways, he falls victim to a trap that many people could relate to; loving someone not just out of your league, but someone incapable of ever loving another person at all. This is part of the reason I understand Shakespeare's portrayal of Malvolio as such a despicable man. Had Malvolio been a more likeable character, it is sure that he would have had his heart broken in a more relatable manner to the audience, and had taken away from the fun of the play. By making Malvolio himself a narcissist, Shakespeare rids the audience of its obligation for sympathy, and allows them to enjoy the fun of comedy without potentially recognizing a parallel in their own lives.

I found Sebastian to be a very interesting character; he brings order to the play, but he also brings a bit of confusion. I can't help but imagine what would have happened if Sebastian had not immediately accepted Olivia's proposition. If he had stopped to think about his actions, he may have realized that there could be very drastic repercussions for agreeing to go home with Olivia; at that moment in time, Sebastian knew nothing about her or what it would mean to be involved with her romantically. He was confused, and as Hannah pointed out, he knew that there was something off about the whole situation. Through Olivia's conversation, there are hints that Sebastian (Cesario) and Olivia have interacted before, but as we know, Sebastian is unaware of this fact. Even so, he still agrees with her and continues to act as if he knows what Olivia is talking about. I think that if Sebastian had taken a minute to think about what was actually going on, the entire play would have changed. However, this is the magic of Shakespeare. As a playwright, Shakespeare knows exactly how and when to resolve the tensions that have sprung up in the play. By introducing Sebastian in Act IV, Shakespeare has created a way to bring the play to a close so the entire group can live happily ever after. Sebastian is the perfect combination of easygoing and wary, and as such, he is able to fulfill Shakespeare's need for a quick resolution to the play's problems. His arrival allows Viola to reveal herself and marry the Duke, and Olivia and Sebastian quickly fall in love as well. The love triangle, which had created all of the play's original tensions, is solved in a couple of pages. Sebastian works as an agent of order to bring the comedy to a close in a quick and easy way - there is very little suffering that the character's have to endure in order to complete the play.

After reading both A Midsummer Night's Dream and Twelfth Night, I noticed that in both plays, there are actors dressed as characters of the opposite gender. We all know that women were not allowed to act during the Elizabethan Era, and as such, there were men (usually young boys) playing the female roles. However, in Twelfth Night, Shakespeare takes it one step further. As there are no women allowed, it is obvious that Olivia, Maria and Viola would all be played by male actors pretending to be women, but in Viola's case, there is a male actor pretending to play a woman, who is pretending to be a man for half the play… In my mind this is slightly confusing, because the lines separating the genders are so convoluted. While reading the play, I was curious to know how Viola was portrayed in Shakespeare's time. Did the actor just resort to his normal, male self when he was Cesario? Or was there an attempt to act as though a woman was disguised as a man? How did the actor manage to separate the three people (himself, Viola, and Cesario) and how did this affect the rest of the play? I wish there was a way to discover how the audience read Viola's character when it was played by a man, because I know that in more recent times, the female characters are played by women. I think it would be very interesting to see a Shakespeare play performed as if we still lived in the Elizabethan Era so I could actually imagine what it was like when these plays first were performed; men would play the female characters, there would be no complete scripts, and the sets would not be nearly as ornate as they are today. I am convinced that the overall tone of the play would change, but I am not sure how it would do so.

Re: Disguises by katiereeveskatiereeves, 24 Apr 2012 18:31

Out of all the parallels between the two plays, the mess that is Orsino and Viola's "love" was exceptionally reminiscent of Midsummer. Much like Helena and Demetrius in Midsummer, we are meant to feel good about Orsino and Viola's marriage upon conclusion of the play, despite its seemingly unnatural development. In Midsummer, Demetrius never shows any inkling of falling for Helena until magic intervenes, suggesting he never loves her for who she truly is. Likewise, Orsino decides to marry Viola without ever even addressing her by her name, we never even know if he thinks he is marrying Cesario in disguise, or Viola herself. Viola's thoughtless acceptance of Orsino's love makes me question whether Shakespeare is commenting on the nature of love itself, or the character of those engaging in these two marriages. When Helena and Demetrius first enter the woods, she is pursuing him in an almost obsessive fashion, desperate for any kind of affection he might throw her way, even rape or "feeding her to wild beasts". I was disturbed by this behavior, but accepted it as part of Helena's desperate character. But Viola throughout Twelfth Night was presented as intelligent and rational, so I was more upset to find a parallel situation in Twelfth Night, where Viola prepares to let Orsino kill her for the sake of putting his mind at ease. While I originally read Viola as overcome with devotion for Orsino, and therefore partially understood her haste, I am still bothered by the extent to which she abandons her rational character for a seemingly unrequited love. In Midsummer, despite the fact that she first begs him to use her, rape her, etc, even vapid Helena stops to question Demetrius's sudden change of heart when he falls under the spell of the flower. At the end of the play, Helena and Demetrius are under a spell, and therefore (partially) excused from their decision to marry. But in Twelfth Night, Viola's acceptance of Orsino's sudden proposal suggests that the marriage is more a product of want for love itself, than an expression of Viola and Orsino’s love for each other. Orsino has shown his capacity for exaggerated, perhaps imagined devotion throughout the entire play, something that made him seem a terrible match for Viola from early on. But perhaps Shakespeare's sudden change in Viola's character is there to show that the two of them are in fact good for each other, for just that reason; they are willing to let love carry them away completely, even despite not truly knowing the person they think they love. If Viola had stuck to her character through the end, she would have questioned this marriage further, but by abandoning rationality, she legitimizes a marriage of emotional incongruity, and makes the conclusion a truly happy one rather than a “happily-ever-after” cop-out on the part of Shakespeare.

Re: Orsino in love by MadihowardMadihoward, 24 Apr 2012 18:31

After reading both A Midsummer Night's Dream and Twelfth Night, I noticed that in both plays, there are actors dressed as characters of the opposite gender. We all know that women were not allowed to act during the Elizabethan Era, and as such, there were men (usually young boys) playing the female roles. However, in Twelfth Night, Shakespeare takes it one step further. As there are no women allowed, it is obvious that Olivia, Maria and Viola would all be played by male actors pretending to be women, but in Viola's case, there is a male actor pretending to play a woman, who is pretending to be a man for half the play… In my mind this is slightly confusing, because the lines separating the genders are so convoluted. While reading the play, I was curious to know how Viola was portrayed in Shakespeare's time. Did the actor just resort to his normal, male self when he was Cesario? Or was there an attempt to act as though a woman was disguised as a man? How did the actor manage to separate the three people (himself, Viola, and Cesario) and how did this affect the rest of the play? I wish there was a way to discover how the audience read Viola's character when it was played by a man, because I know that in more recent times, the female characters are played by women. I think it would be very interesting to see a Shakespeare play performed as if we still lived in the Elizabethan Era so I could actually imagine what it was like when these plays first were performed; men would play the female characters, there would be no complete scripts, and the sets would not be nearly as ornate as they are today. I am convinced that the overall tone of the play would change, but I am not sure how it would do so.

Re: Disguises by katiereeveskatiereeves, 24 Apr 2012 18:30

I agree with both of you in that Malvolio is, or at lease can be, and interesting and more complex character. However, I think the way in which he is acted can really make all the difference. Like Jeff mentioned, in the jail cell scene Malvolio has been goofily tied to a chair, but other times has been trapped in a full on cage and the whole scene has been much more dramatic and serious. When thinking about Malvolio’s character, I’m reminded of animated children's movies where there is that one “bad guy”, maybe a sidekick to the real villain or something, but he isn’t very menacing and is portrayed as a joke. At the end, he is usually put to some type of dismay, but its laughable, and you neither feel good that he is finally defeated or bad that he has received unfair punishment. He is sent off at the end yelling “ill get you, some day! Just you wait!”, and even though he is serious, it comes off as comedic. As we see at the end of Twelfth Night, Malvolio leaves with “I’ll be revenged with the whole pack of you!”. I think Malvolio can be portrayed as this character, and even though at the end he is basically the only one who’s problems haven’t been resolved, just like Egeus in Midsummer, the audience can laugh it off because the nature of the acting hasn't allowed the audience to develop a human relationship with him.
On the other hand, if Malvolio is portrayed as a serious character, I agree that the audience can actually develop some kind of connection and empathy for him. However, due to the spirit of the rest of the play, a comedy, this might detract from the themes Shakespeare is trying to push (although I guess shakespeare does do this type of thing often). Now that I think of it, if Shakespeare really did enjoy looking out into the audience during his plays and observing people’s reactions, he would probably like to see Malvolio acted right on the line between the goofy bad guy who no one really cares about and the empathetic, toyed with person who receives unfair treatment and a bad ending. This way, some people in the audience would interpret the character in one way and generate one response, while others would respond very differently.

As I am not British, and never grew up with the master/servant ideology, complete devotion to a master is something that I fail to wrap my head around. When I read about a servant or a slave, (any form of subservient character really), I automatically assume that their ultimate goal should be to break free from whatever bonds or obligation tie them down, and succeed in some way on their own. I imagine a kind of Dobby character from Harry Potter. In Harry Potter, the same kind of master/servant relationship is presented as a permanent part of British society; nobody questions it, despite its extremity. At the ages of 12 or 13 especially, I found myself disturbed by the master/servant relationships presented in a children's book. Dobby, the character who breaks free from magical bonds of servitude continues to serve, and continues to display an unnatural devotion to Harry Potter. It seems unnecessary at first, almost wrong. But Sebastian needs Antonio much like Harry eventually needs Dobby; their devotion seems legitimized by the necessity of their servitude. Would I ever shut my fingers in an oven for someone? (Dobby, not Antonio). No, no I would not. But I am also not British. The complete devotion that Antonio shows for Sebastian, much like that which Dobby shows for Harry, shows strength of character, the servant's ability to recognize virtue in their master and their wish to help the virtuous succeed. Neither servant ever tries to elevate themselves past, or even equal to their master, (Malvolio’s ultimate flaw as a servant), they simple show devotion. This leaves the master with no obligation to love them back, or acknowledge them as a peer. Sebastian's response to Antonio then, much like Harry's sadness over Dobby's death, is less an expression of homosexuality (or bestiality?), and more an opportunity for the narrator to expand upon their virtue, their ability to love or appreciate than which is beneath them. By treating Antonio in an almost loving fashion, Sebastian becomes a gracious character, one worth the servant he is presented with. And so while his dialogue with Antonio may be on the verge of romantic, it is Shakespeare's expression of his worth and potential for heroism (as he is the character that eventually resolves everything), rather than a display of forbidden love.

The greatest parallel I have found so far between Midsummer and Twelfth Night, is that while both are categorized as comedies, and both contain extraordinarily funny moments that allow for such, there is something nasty and unresolved underlying the seemingly cheerful conclusion. In Twelfth Night, we never see Malvolio obtain justice for the wrongs done upon him, while at the end of Midsummer, almost all of the couples fated to be married and spend the rest of their lives together, have been shoved together via magic or coercion. However, by presenting the ill-fated characters as unlikeable to the audience, Shakespeare is able to draw laughs or satisfaction from the truly tragic. Malvolio is the antagonist from the moment he first enters the stage, he is written as purposefully unlikeable. He despoils everything, ruining the fun of the other characters, showing himself as unable to take a joke and presenting himself as a narcissist more than anything else. Therefore, when a scene unfolds in which he is the victim, the audience is less touched by the tragic undertones than had it been a more likeable character. In Midsummer, rather than purely unlikeable, Shakespeare creates Helena, Hermia, Lysander, and Demetrius as almost throwaway characters. When at the conclusion of the play their relationships seem tangled and superficial, created by magic and manipulation rather than true love, the audience never stops to question it, because the situation mirrors the characters themselves; Malvolio the villain is never truly redeemed and the four superficial lovers are gifted superficial relationships. So because the both plays have greater comedic narratives, Shakespeare is able to layer darker themes under the surface in such a manner that doesn't ruin the audience member's experience, but still allows him to present deeper questions about our ability to draw lines between comedy and tragedy, or our desire to see through the superficial.

“The arrogant self can become the abject Other; that failure to bend, to negotiate, inevitably results in terrible fracture” – At first glance, Malvolio’s story seems to follow this general path; however, what differentiates Malvolio from the typical tragic character is his own exaggerated view of himself. While a real tragic hero has a multitude of virtues in addition to the one fatal flaw that cannot be overcome, and is therefore partially right in his self-pride, Malvolio’s character is just a compilation of many unfavorable traits. Because of his caricature-like antagonism, it is clear to the audience that Malvolio’s arrogance and lofty opinion of himself are wildly undeserved, making for a comical scenario. Also, the extent to which Mavolio believes he is experiencing a “terrible fracture” is funny when put into perspective, since the stakes are so incredibly low. In a tragedy, the state of becoming an “abject Other” is a universally dismal condition (death, for example), but in Malvolio’s case, the possible fallout from these tensions is only temporary humiliation. To summarize, Malvolio’s belief that he is a tragic hero is what changes his situation from a tragedy to a comedy, since from an outside perspective he is clearly being excessively hyperbolical.

“Because we are only human, our knowledge is merely knowingness, our vision partial rather than whole” – This quotation also applies to the importance of perspective, in comedy as well as in tragedy. Malvolio’s skewed view of his own situation is proof of his partial vision, and the unique outside perspective of the audience, acting as a sort of omniscient being, helps to make the overall vision whole. Similarly, the audience’s ability to piece together the whole vision drives the comedy in all the scenes involving Cesario and Olivia, since Olivia herself does not have the most crucial piece of information: that Cesario is actually a woman in disguise. While Olivia has “knowingness,” the false belief that she understands what is going on, the audience has real knowledge, and this disconnect provides the humor of the situation.

“We must tread carefully in the world” – In contrast to this stark final message of tragedy, comedies such as Twelfth Night seem to teach the opposite lesson: that no matter how carelessly the characters act, their problems are easily solved. For example, Viola sets herself up for disaster by trying to maintain two identities at once, a situation which easily could have ended badly for her. Instead, though, her problem is solved quickly and effortlessly by the extreme fortune that she just so happens to have a twin brother. Once again, the use of perspective as a comedic tool is prevalent, since the easy resolutions at the end of the play make the problems themselves seem insignificant.

Paper Topic by Kate LaHorgueKate LaHorgue, 24 Apr 2012 06:40

I agree that Malvolio creates for himself the tragic circumstances that seem to plague him and that ultimately lead to his downfall/lack of success in comparison with the other characters. Although Malvolio does not die in the end of the play, as is customary in a tragedy, his pride is irreparably damaged and he is in a position with seemingly no visible path to recovery. He transitions from fully being the embodiment of an “arrogant self,” believing confidently that Olivia loves him and that he will be able to transcend his existing social position (servant), to referring to himself as “madly used” and taking pity on his own flaws in reading situations and the motives of others.
For Malvolio, the “terrible fracture” occurs the very moment that he thinks his power to be greater than that of the other characters in the play. This can be first seen when Malvolio corrects Sir Andrew, Toby and the Fool for making “an ale-house” of Olivia’s house (Act 2, Scene 3, Line 90). In this moment he creates a gap between himself and the other characters, preventing himself from developing relationships and bonds with them. He is, for the rest of the play seen as malicious and ill intended because he is acting in opposition with the spirited fun of the others.
Because Malvolio creates such a serious situation for himself it is up to the other characters to “bend” and account for the extra tension that he provides. The tension must be diluted in the other characters actions in order for the play as a whole to have a comedic connotation. Characters such as Sebastian, Olivia, and Viola serve to re-implement a carefree setting in the same moment that Malvolio is falling down to be the “abject other”.
I agree with Sam that the ending of the play is distinguished as a comedy only by a very small margin. Because the characters ultimately choose to “tread carefully in the world” they avoid creating the large and problematic ripples that are often found in a tragedy. Should Olivia have responded differently to Malvolio’s letter, for instance, the play could have finished with a death rather than in a comedy, but because Olivia decided to act in good spirits, as is the theme for many of the characters in comedies, the letter was simply cast away and the play was resolved with the promise of weddings in the future.

When we first started reading Twelfth Night, I was unsure of how Malvolio fit into love triangle of Viola, Orsino and Olivia. His character seemed very minor and his participation in the play seemed to be more of a subplot than a main theme. However, as we read more of the play, I began to realize what a key aspect Malvolio is to the overall plot of the play; Shakespeare created a complex character whose importance grows as the play goes on.

Malvolio joins the main plot of the play in Act II, when he reveals that it is his goal to become “Count Malvolio” (II.v.30). I immediately sensed that in stating that he aspired to be noble when he was of lower class would cause great tensions among the other characters. Sir Toby and Sir Andrew eventually ensure Malvolio’s downfall by messing with his extreme ambitions to surpass everyone in class. In claiming that he would be the count, Malvolio immediately invited the other servants’ resentment and therefore, he finds himself in the precarious position of a man without friends.

By tricking Malvolio into thinking he actually has a chance with Olivia, Maria, Toby and Andrew force him into a state of delusion; he is unable to see reason and therefore he is easily tricked. I began to pity Malvolio as I watched him make a fool of himself in front of Olivia. Not only had he been led on by the note penned by Maria, but he has put himself in a vulnerable position by allowing his emotions to take over. Personally, I think that Malvolio is one of the most important and interesting characters in the play, and without him, I feel as though the play would have been lacking depth in many of the characters. As readers we are able to see Maria, Toby, and Andrew’s true colors after they lock Malvolio away, and I think this adds a key aspect to the overall story.

Importance of Malvolio by katiereeveskatiereeves, 24 Apr 2012 04:08

Tragedy vs. Comedy
->Death vs. Marriage
-Tragic Hero- the protagonist of a tragedy who is expected to crumble. The story of a hero whose flaw is too great to be overcome. Many times, the tragic hero's flaw is a reflection of humanity.
Junior Topic Discussion: If tragedy turns the arrogant self into the abject Other, then what does comedy do to a character? Using Twelfth Night
Arrogant Self
- Arrogant- Full of oneself, think that you cannot fail, proud, hubris.
- Self- Self importance, Thinking about what is good for you, selfishness, strongly connected to own ID. Dominant (in the terms of western culture).
Abject Other
-Abject- Outcast, sunk to or existing in a low state of condition (example is extreme poverty). Showing helplessness or resignation.
- Other- Removed and disconnected. Disconnected from ID.

Analysis of Tragic Quote—

"Failure to bend, to negotiate" - shows stubbornness, to caught up in yourself, making it impossible to think of what is best for everyone. Not being able to reach a compromise, or giving something and getting something. Getting something= arrogant self's total desire. Or in some of the other texts that we have read, would the compromise be the failure? Comedy: failure to adapt to complex situations, e.g. Malvolio

"inevitably results in terrible fracture" - Two groups splitting, not communicating, becoming enemies. Literal meaning= something that cannot bend when pressure is put on it will break, like a stick.

"that, because we are only human, our knowledge is merely knowingness" - The human portion implies that we cannot take other's perspectives into account. Also brings up the point that humans are not divine and cannot possess all perspectives, but the audience can and the author can. Difference between knowledge and knowingness- Knowledge- concrete, something that you can possess. Comprehensive understanding of what is going on. Actual useful information. Knowingness- Fuzzy, not what you think. More of a feeling that you know everything than actually possessing the information.

"our vision partial rather than whole"- incomplete picture.

"we must tread carefully in the world" - tragic heros are a good example of people who tread carelessly in the world. Similar to walk on thin ice, easily broken. The idea of falling, falling from grace or from power if care is not taken. Also physically falling can lead to injury or death.

Notes 4/23/12 by Isabel Verhille Isabel Verhille , 24 Apr 2012 03:06
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