The Twelfth Night

4 April 2015
This paper examines the concept of excess in this Shakespearean play.

Shakespeare often used “excess” to deliberately create a sense of imbalance in the play. While in tragedies excess was employed to intensify the emotions of grief and sorrow, this dramatic tool had a different role to play in comedies. This paper shows how, in most comedies, “Excess” was incorporated in order to generate spontaneous laughter but in “Twelfth Night”, the playwright had a different motive for employing “excess”. The writer shows how Shakespeare has made use of the element of excess in this play specifically to expose the weaknesses of Elizabethan society of 16th century. The paper closely studies the instances of “excess” in this play and discusses the playwright’s purpose in this connection.
THE TWELFTH NIGHT: element of excess
The Twelfth Night is one of those comedies of William Shakespeare that revolves around the theme of excess. Excess thus refers to a certain imbalance in the plot which is highlighted though various means including actions, words and emotions. In Twelfth Night, excess has been used intentionally in order to both generate spontaneous laughter and expose the imperfections of English society. Thus we can say that Shakespeare normally uses this dramatic tool to accentuate a particular emotion. In this play, the same intention is present and this time excess has been incorporated to make the play even more hilarious without losing grip on the real purpose. In the very beginning of the play, we notice that the playwright wants his readers to pay attention to the element of excess when his character Orsino says:

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die. (Act 1 Scene 1)

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The Twelfth Night. (2015, Apr 23). Retrieved September 24, 2020, from
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