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What is wit and satire in Twelfth Night by Shakespeare?

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dafflingeyes | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 16, 2010 at 5:20 PM via web

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What is wit and satire in Twelfth Night by Shakespeare?

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted January 17, 2010 at 9:41 AM (Answer #1)

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The play Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare is one of Romantic Comedy.  Hi play features a female protagonist who disguises herself as a young man. (In his day these roles had to be played by women). 

The satire evolves around the Duke who pies away for Olivia.  Olivia is grieving over her dead brother.  A man washes on shore, who is really a woman dressed as a man, and she/he gets hired as a page by the Duke.  The Duke enlists the woman disguised as man to help him to get Olivia's attention. However, the plan backfires when Olivia falls in love with the page (a female) who she believes is the man of her dreams. 

The satire is the manner in which Shakespeare has set up his plots.  The audience expects one thing and gets another.  He uses ridicule and joking to get the audience to laugh at the turn of events.

Shakespeare's wit is evident in the way he words things. 

"Toby: I will mediate the while upon some horrid message for a challenge." 

Olivia mocks Viola after she has presented information about her background and that she is a gentleman.  In the play Olivia repeats what she has said (believing she is a male) and repeats her words back in a witty and stuck-up manner.  She is making her remark witty as she says it.

Wit is performed by the cast in the play as they banter back and forth in witty ways.  The words are their swords as each one tries to outdo the other.

 

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