Q. With Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, ‘we trust that everything will turn out for the best. After all, this is a comedy isn’t it?’ How far do you agree with this statement, in view of the final scenes of the play?
To a certain extent, Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night, or What you Will, does ‘turn out for the best’ for everyone. Indeed, the final scene offers a resolution to the disorder of the play, typical of the tripartite dramatic & comedic structure, however the resolution is not all encompassing and there are some characters who have been ‘most notoriously abus’d’. David Willbern notes that there is no ‘coherence of circumstance… at the conclusion of… Twelfth Night’, and this has made the play almost a ‘paradigm of the form’. After all, we don’t actually see anyone get married, unlike Theseus and Hippolyta at the end of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Even Sir Toby and Maria’s wedlock occurs offstage and Viola wants to wait to rejoice, until ‘each circumstance of place, time, fortune do cohere and jump…’.
Nevertheless, for many characters, things do ‘turn out for the best’. To begin with, Orsino’s self-indulgent delight in his ‘bulimic’ nature of wanting ‘excess’ of love -which Cash notes is akin to ‘mental masturbation’ - is abandoned and he adroitly switches his ‘constant’ affections towards ‘Cesario’ and conveniently forgets his love for Olivia. Orsino perpetually delights in adoring Olivia from afar, and admires how she can, in a rather hyperbolic metaphor, purge ‘…the air of pestilence’, such is her beauty. And yet at the end of the play, Orsino announces that he will ‘have share in this most happy wreck’, and orders Cesario to ‘give me thy hand’. The audience cannot help but muse at the irony here of his complete change of heart.
Moreover, things ‘turn out for the best’ for Olivia. The stark contrast from her at the beginning of the play, when she is spoken of by Valentine as grieving for her father and ‘brother’s dead love’ for ‘seven years’ and...