Explain how Sebastian's entry into the drama changes the grim situation into an atmosphere of enchantment and mirth.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Much of the play's humor is derived from the confused pairs of lovers who pursue each other. Behind this confusion is mistaken identity. Shakespeare uses the well-established plot device of twins who have been separated. Here, the twins are female and male. The author employs another convention, which was especially popular in Elizabethan theater, of females disguised as males to generate humor by having people fall in love with someone of the same gender.

In Twelfth Night, Viola and Sebastian are twins who do not know each other's whereabouts. Viola decides that she can move around the island more easily if she is disguised as a man. Once she has assumed this role, calling herself Cesario, she looks just like her brother. Viola falls in love with "him."

Once Sebastian shows up, everyone mistakes him for Cesario and vice versa. The mirth comes from the lovers's confusion over being ignored or, they believe, spurned. The pompous Sir Andrew gets a big surprise in a sword fight when his opponent, Sebastian, turns out to be very skilled and wounds him.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team