First, introducing Shakespeare… Quick Hits Written around 1601/2 The title Twelfth Night refers to the twelfth day after Christmas, which marks a holiday known as Epiphany. It is believed that Shakespeare wrote the play for a party celebrating this event. That brings us to the alternate title: What You Will. The alternate title evinces an even more flippant, carefree, attitude toward the content of the play: What You Will or “Call this Play Anything You Want, It Just Doesn’t Matter,” even “Whatever!” What the alternate title indicates is that Shakespeare takes nothing seriously in this play even before the action begins, nor should we – the audience and/or reader. From the maudlin song that starts the play even before the action begins, to the final, ostensibly frivolous song that ends the play, it is all for fun. Twelfth Night is a Comedy…Was Shakespeare really Funny? Heck Yes! His humour appealed to people of all tastes and classes Twelfth Night contains all kinds of humor – slapstick, wit, sight gags, puns… All of Shakespeare’s Plays are either Tragedies or Comedies. Tragedy VS. Comedy The hero is a highly important person, usually a public figure such as a king or politician. VS. Characters tend to be normal, down-to-earth individuals. Comedies tend to parody authority. The suffering and calamity are exceptional, of a striking kind. They are as a rule unexpected and are a strong contrast to previous happiness or glory. VS. At least for the clever, comic actions allow one to escape the consequences, to have a second chance. The story depicts also the troubled part of the hero’s life, caused by a tragic flaw. The character is either unable or refuses to change, leading to his/her death. VS. Comic heroes are more willing to change. Or if they are not, we as the audience find this funny rather than tragic. The suffering and calamity extend far beyond the protagonist so as to make the whole scene one of woe. An important lesson is learned over the grave of the tragic hero. VS. Comedy is more imaginative, stressing playfulness. It tends to look for a variety of answers and doesn't need to solve everything. The story leads up to and includes the death of the hero. VS. The story usually ends with a great celebration (i.e. a wedding) Other Characteristics of Comedy… There is more sexual equality in a comedy. Comedies, while often sexist too, are sometimes less so. Women play a larger, more active role. In comedy, ambiguity is what makes humor possible. Equally, not everything has to make sense in comedy. "Lord, what fools these mortals be!" – From A Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare uses humour, satire and parody to express his ideas about our universal human experiences. Shakespeare Invented the Romantic Comedy Think about romantic comedies you have seen. What are some elements of this type of story? How do romantic comedies usually end?