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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Shakespeare`s Twelfth Night is not an obviously didactic play. As most comedies, the faults at which we are expected to laugh represent violations of the social norms of the period, and thus would have provided the audience with guidance to those norms. For example, the transgressing of gender by Viola in fact suggests that gender roles were relatively inflexible in the period. Sir Andrew`s cowardice, and its similarity to that of Viola, show us that lack of physical bravery in men was considered gender-inappropriate behaviour. Sir Toby illustrates that excessive drunkenness was unacceptable and Malvolio that servants taking on the ‘airs’ of their `betters` was considered inappropriate.