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Exploring the Themes and Characters of Twelfth Night

             Twelfth Night is considered one of Shakespeare's greatest comedies. Shakespeare wrote this play near the middle of his career. Twelfth Nigh is about illusion, deception, disguise and the many strange things that love will cause a person to do. Twelfth Night is the only one of the Shakespearean plays that has an alternate title; which is Twelfth Night, or What You Will (SparkNotes.com, 2003). Critics are not certain about the meaning of the two titles. The "Twelfth Night- is considered to be a reference to the twelfth night of the Christmas celebration. During this time period, this celebration consisted of people turning everything up side-down, much like the world of the Twelfth Night. This play is considered to be one of Shakespeare's transvestite plays. Female characters dress up as males and vice versa. These disguises add much confusion to the play. Most critics are very interested about Shakespeare's homoerotic references in his plays. .
             Love and its fulfillment are primary in Shakespeare's comedies (Summers, 1955). The conflicts are usually presented in terms of a dispute between the generations. At the beginning of the plays the young lovers are usually criticized by the older generation of parents or rulers who want to preserve the old forms or to fulfill new ambitions. The comedies usually end with the youth making peace with the elders and assuming adulthood and power. Twelfth Night does not follow the usual pattern of other comedies. In this play, the responsible older generation has been abolished. There are no parents at all in this play. In the first act we are rapidly introduced into a world in which the ruler is a love-sick Duke-in which young ladies, fatherless and motherless, embark on disguised actions, or rule, after a fashion, their own households, and in which the only individuals possibly over thirty are drunkards, jokesters, and gulls, totally without authority (Summers, 1955).

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