The Irony in «Twelfth Night»

The Irony in «Twelfth Night»
August 10, 2017
Posted in Writing Help

Twelfth Night or What You Will is recognized as one of the sophisticated and outstanding masterpieces written by the prominent English author – William Shakespeare. The following comedy is composed of five acts. Shakespeare pays attention to Viola and Sebastian’s story. These poor twins were separated due to shipwreck that occurred near the shores of the kingdom of Illyria.

Just like most plays of this author, Twelfth Night tells us the story about love, but the main focus of the comedy lies in irony and dramatic situations that occur throughout the play. For instance, after the separation with her brother Sebastian who was believed to be dead, Viola commences working for Orsino. This noble duke has passionate feelings for poor Olivia. Viola disguises herself into a boy named Cesario, and offers Orsino help win the heart of Olivia. But with some time flows away, Olivia suddenly falls in love with Cesario. She is convinced that Cesario is a real man. The irony in the case under study is achieved with the help of a gender-crossing game of disguise. Viola, who is a woman in reality, disguises as a man; though, she plays a female who pretends to be a male hero. It was mainly influenced by the context of Shakespeare’s time when all actors were men while women were not allowed to act on the scene.


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One of the numerous examples of situational irony is observed when Olivia meets Sebastian and asks him to marry her because she considers Sebastian to be Cesario. In simple words, Viola disguises herself as a man. As a result, Duke Orsino, who asks Viola to assist him with Olivia at the very beginning, does fall in love with Viola after he has revealed her true identity and gender.

The dramatic irony of the play’s plot is found in the fact that the audience knows everything from the start, while all the characters do not. Situational irony of this amazing story also reveals itself in the difference between the desired goal and the outcome. From Twelfth Night, we

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