Twelfth Night Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What is the role that music and songs have in the play Twelfth Night?

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The thread on this question offers solid answers of how the songs in Twelfth Night contribute to the complex mood of the play. This play begins with melancholy and death—including the presumed death of Sebastian as well as the real death of Olivia's brother and father.

Love intervenes and pushes these gloomy elements to the back burner as Olivia falls in love with Cesario and Orsino seems to grow out of his narcissism through a developing friendship with Cesario. Viola/Cesario serves as an intermediary to Orsino's and Olivia's growth. The songs offer both tonal enhancements to these moods—joyful rebellion against death and mourning (Sir Toby's drinking songs)—and philosophical meditations on life and the nature of time (Feste's songs).

The other role music plays in Elizabethan comedy is to stop the action. This play, along with As You Like It and The Merchant of Venice, demonstrates the ability to stop the forward motion of the plot—while it teeters between farce or tragedy —to offer an...

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