Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies, and yet it has the most complex of endings. How much of this is due to the cruelty to be found interlinked with the comedy?
One would not think of Twelfth Night as a typical Shakespearean comedy. Although the ending does have weddings they are very rushed and some of the newlyweds for example Lady Olivia and Sebastian hardly know each other. Also at the end of a typical comedy very few or no characters are left alone or unhappy however in Twelfth Night there are quite a few people who alone at the end of this play. For example Malvolio and Sir Andrew Aguecheek are somewhat forgotten at the end of this play and appear much exploited by Sir Toby. This is definitely due to the trickery that is played out at the expensive of these two characters, which by the end becomes very cruel especially on the part of Malvolio.
There is always cruelty in comedy but in Twelfth Night there definitely seems to be an excess of it. It appears that some point throughout the play every character indulges in cruel comedy, and this is never victimless. The obvious cruelty throughout the play is the sub plot with Malvolio, who tends to be the victim in this play and the comedy is mainly executed by Sir Toby who spends his life mocking Malvolio “why, how now, my bawcock? How dost thou, chuck?”. Sir Toby also takes pleasure in tricking Sir Andrew as he is very dim-witted and therefore easy to exploit; he clearly does this throughout the play for money to fuel his drinking habit and for amusing entertainment under the pretence that Lady Olivia entertains feelings for him. Luckily however after several failed attempts by Sir Andrew to leave, he finally realizes that Sir Toby doesn’t like him in the least.
Other than the cruelty Twelfth night is a romantic comedy and romantic love is the play’s main focus. Despite the fact that the play offers a happy ending, in which the various lovers find one another and achieve wedlock,...