Student Question

How does Sebastian's entry into the drama change the atmosphere in Twelfth Night?

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.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial