Gulling of Malvolio

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“The gulling of Malvolio is a joke that goes too far”. To what extent does Shakespeare blur the boundaries of comedy in his depiction of the gulling of Malvolio? The boundaries of comedy can sometimes be blurred as they range between light and dark comedy. Dark comedy is often used to dismember the potential discomfort an audience may feel should heavy moral subjects arise in pieces of art such as psychological impairment in Twelfth Night. Malvolio is used in Twelfth Night to personify the notion of Lent and order in the text and is the butt of the comedy in the sub-plot. The conspirators Sir Toby, Mary, Sir Andrew, Feste, and to an extent Fabien, are the characters who are the creators of the gulling of Malvolio. Whether or not the joke is thought to go too far is, in my opinion, dependent on the audience. For example, an Elizabethan audience could potentially find the play more humorous than a modern 21st Century audience. In the late 1600s, individuals to be considered 'mad' were thought to have been possessed by the devil or some other evil spirit, and so were mocked and considered dangerous and unapproachable (as suggested by Sir Toby in Act 3 Scene 4 “defy the devil”). In some ways, they weren't even thought of as the same species to conventionally 'normal' people. For this reason, an Elizabethan audience may find the joke to be comfortably within boundaries and possess the acumen necessary to find humour within the text and jokes. Another reason a 17th Century audience could consider the joke to be within the boundaries of comedy is the possibility of Malvolio being an ill-considered puritan to them. A puritan is a religious person who's personally opinionated line between what is wrong and what is right is absolute and solid. In Act 2 Scene 3 Maria openly describes Malvolio in this way: “The devil a puritan he is.” This explains a contributing factor
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