Topic: ArtComedy

Last updated: April 1, 2019

Shakespeare uses the word ‘mad’ and ‘madness’ multiple times. Malvolio is considered as the starting point of any exploration of madness within the play. The sub-plot of the play and the “letter trick” that was designed by Sir Toby and Maria is to purposely make a joke out of Malvolio and make Olivia think he is mad by tricking him into prancing around in yellow stockings. Near the end of the play, Malvolio swears revenge on the house “I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you!” Malvolio’s revenge threatens the comedy genre of Twelfth Night, and suggests revenge tragedy. A modern audience would question the comedy for the pranks and bad treatment, because a modern audience tends to sympathise with outsiders and misfits and would say the joke has been taken too far and lost any comedy it may have had. The audience who begins to pity Malvolio may argue that the play itself is not a comedy, instead more of a tragedy as they may feel that Malvolio does not deserve to be treated this harshly even if he was an obstacle in the rest of the play.


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