The present play in concern, “The Twelfth Night” can be aptly regarded as one of the most vibrant comedies of Shakespeare. It brings much delight and sweetness to the observer.
There is an overall good nature to the comedy that surpasses time and age. It has some bits of satire too but that is never overdone. This light hearted play is almost pointed to the ludicrous along with making the viewer laugh at the humor and folly. We laugh at human foibles but the comic balance is perfect and it does not tilt towards satire. Many critics would compare this act of Shakespeare akin to the power of extracting sweetness from a poisonous plant. There are some very amusing characterizations in the play with little exaggeration and the humorous aspects are always certainly well timed.
There are perverse conditions of wit and malice that interplay but do not get burdening. There are people who are conscious of the peculiarities and absurdities of themselves but do not delve deeper to point them out seriously either.
The well constructed wit is aimed at social follies but these are joined with the right dose of humor to make this a very entertaining drama. The masks and hypocritical stages of society are pointed at but never in a direct or harsh tone. With the perfect comic style there are uses of masque and semblances that bring out the preposterous and the vainglorious. There are severe contrasts shown between those who stay grounded and real with those who deny this or get affected and swept away by vanity.
The comedy, in the manner of the Restoration plays, mock the perils of the shows of society.
But never does it exaggerate the masquerade in the manner of Wycherley, Congreve, Pope or Dryden. There is a certain amount of successful rendition of the truth with sweet belying that is present in the play.
There is perfect aplomb in successful presentation of the wit and satire of Shakespeare’s work here played with a style that does not bring severe affectation to the comic factors. The foibles of individual characterization have been kept fresh along with the notion that the inclination to human pitfalls has been created by nature to bring about diversity among mankind. In this regard the play will make similar remarks to the works of Cervantes and Moliere.
In its approach though Shakespeare is much more extravagant than both of them and there is the presence of indulgence to folly in an unchecked manner. Absurdity has been encouraged in many regards along with keeping room for conceit and quibbles. The whole objective of the play has been kept on the line of bawdry humor rather than turning into anything that calls for serious attention.