Excess In The Twelfth Night

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The Twelfth Night or What you will is a play written by William Shakespeare in about 1601-02. It is a comedy which focuses around the romantic relationships of the twins Viola and Sebastian and their love interests Orsino and Olivia on the island of Illyria. The play has a comedic twist by including an element of crossdressing, which in turn brings much confusion to the romantic relationships of the characters.The Twelfth Night was written during the renaissance, which was a time of excess; in both the arts, beauty and frivolity. Shakespeare explores these areas of excess in the first monologue of the play by the Duke and throughout the course of the play. Excess is even explored by Shakespeare, in how it can be represented in so many ways …show more content…
As Orsino lounges listening to music he reflects on his excess of love for Olivia and describes her as so beautiful that “she purge[s] the air of pestilence/ [and his] desires, like fell and cruel hounds/ E’er since pursue”(4) him. Throughout the entire play Olivia is described to be excessively beautiful and it can be interpreted as Shakespeare celebrating beauty in the spirit of the Renaissance. Orsino also comments, in his monologue on the beauty of music. That music “came o’er [his] ear like the sweet sound/ That breathes upon a bank of violets”(3). Orsino also states how he wishes to have “excess of it”(3) so that he may overdose on the beauty of the music. The beauty of both Olivia and music are in excess connecting to the Renaissances idea of having things in excess, live sensual beauty and the arts, that had not been previously …show more content…
Feste is an artist of comedy who travels between Olivia and Orsino’s estates and who often ridicules those above him; although with caution. Shakespeare uses Feste to show how even though other arts may be in excess a comedian, or clown, must always keep his art restrained. If he excessively ridicules someone with a higher status he could lose his job or even his life. As a comedian he must always be careful to know where the line is between playful humour and annoyance. By using Feste to explore the reality of comedy in excess Shakespeare is explaining how not all arts should be taken in excess, some must be

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