Many definitions of comedy claim that the ending of the play offers a happy resolution for all. Explore the ending of Twelfth Night in light of this statement. Even though Twelfth Night is catagorized as a comedy, there are a few characters who experience hurt and cruelty throughout the play. These characters don’t get a happy ending, or a real resolution to their problems. Malvolio, Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Feste don’t end up happily married like the other characters in the Twelfth Night.
Malvolio is perhaps the character with the least happy ending, and the character who the audience feels the most pity for. At the end of Twelfth Night, Malvolio is left extremely humiliated, hurt and seeking revenge. At first he seems like a minor character, but as the play progresses the audience can see that he is the main character in the subplot. Previously in the play he was ‘gulled’ by Sir Toby Belch, Maria, Fabien and Feste, and branded a ‘madman’.
Malvolios circumstances in Act 4 Scene 2 make the audience feel uneasily aware of the fact that Malvolios unhappiness and humiliation is a source of pleasure and mean satisfaction for the other characters. After being locked up in a dark room, and humiliated by thinking he was undergoing an ‘exorcism’, Malvolio finally gets out, only to find that his ordeal is not over, and towards the end of the play, things become clear fot the audience that Malvolio will not get a happy ending. Whilst he is locked up, he writes a letter to Olivia, which becomes another source of humiliation for Malvolio.
This is shown at the end of Act 5, Scene 1, firstly because Feste does not deliver this letter to Olivia as fast as he could have done, subsequently it takes longer for everything to be revealed to Malvolio, so everyone still thinks that he is a ‘madman’. On line 290, Fabien reads out Malvolios letter to Olivia. Malvolio signs the letter with “the madly used Malvolio”. Shortly after Fabien has read out Malvolio’s letter to Olivia, Feste is sent to bring Malvolio to Olivia. When Feste returns with Malvolio, he is again humiliated by the other characters.
On line 306, after Malvolio walks in, Orsino unwittingly remarks ‘is this the madman? ’ and Olivia replys to this with ‘Ay my lord, this same. ” Orsino and Olivia refer to him the ‘madman’, even when he is with them, even though he has stated he is not mad in his letter which Fabien read out to Olivia just beforehand. When Fabien explains to Malvolio how he was gulled, Feste, who was part of the plan, continues to tease Malvolio “I was one, sir, in this interlude, one Sir Topas, sir – but that’s all one. In this scene and also in (when Malvolio was locked up) Feste seems to be trying not to just trick Malvolio but actually drive him to true madness, yet Feste was the one who helped him escape.
Even Olivia seems to have very little sorrow for him. On line 348, Olivia says “Alas, poor fool, how have they baffled thee! ” She almost completely dismisses the fact that he had been cruelly tricked into thinking she was in love with him, and instead of feeling sympathetic, sounds as though she is making light of the situation. Malvolios last words in the play clearly show he has no intention of forgiving everyone involved. I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you! ”. In most comedies, problems that occur during the play are usually happily resolved by the end, but in Malvolio’s case this doesn’t happen; for him the play ends on a sour note, and whilst the majority of other characters are married and content, Malvolio is left as he was at the start of the play, an outsider. Some people would argue that even though Malvolio may not seem happy, he has possibly, in a very harsh way, learnt his lesson about treating people differently, although his last words do not suggest this.
Another character in Twelfth Night who doesn’t get a happy ending is Sir Andrew Aguecheek. Even though Feste is defined as the fool in the play, its clear from the moment in Act 1 Scene 3 when we first meet Sir Andrew, that he is an idiot, and the real fool of the play. Sir Andrews ending is interesting for the audience because it is very abrupt and, unlike many definitions of comedy which say that there is a happy ending for all at the end of the play, his last few lines in the play are spoken with hurt. He is also one of the few characters who doesn’t get married at the end.
In Act 5 Scene 1, his last words in the play are directed at Sir Toby, to which he gets a reply that maybe he wasn’t expecting. ”Ill help you, Sir Toby, because we’ll be dressed together. ” The phrase ‘dressed together’ shows just how naive Sir Andrew can be, as the audience might have got the impression that throughout the play, Sir Toby was just using Sir Andrew for his money, however he has no clue that he is being used. Sir Toby replys to him by saying ‘Will you help – an ass-head, and a coxcomb, and a knave, a thin faced knave, a gull? Sir Tobys true feelings towards Sir Andrew are shown, but this line could be interpreted in different ways. The audience can see in this scene that Sir Toby is drunk, and many different productions change how this is performed on stage. Some productions show this line as a blatent insult to Sir Andrew, however other productions could show on stage that Sir Toby was just drunkenly teasing Sir Andrew. This could create even more hurt than actually just insulting him straight to his face, but we never get to see Sir Andrews reaction.
We cant help but feel highly sympathetic towards him, even though Sir Toby may have just have been joking. This is a new burden to Sir Andrew, who was already distressed as he had just been beaten by Sebastian, and left bleeding. After Sir Toby’s drunken insult or joke, Sir Andrew does not reply, but Olivia’s next line is interesting for the audience. “Get him to bed, and let his hurt be looked to. ” This could be interpreted in different ways, it implys that even she knows that what Sir Toby has said is hurtful, and feels sympathetic towards him.
This could also be an underlining clue as to how Sir Andrew is feeling after Sir Tobys remarks without Sir Andrew actually saying anything himself. Because Sir Andrews exit to the play is so abrupt and sudden, and he is left with no real resolution, the audience are left to imagine and interpret this for themselves. Feste is another example of a character who doesn’t get a ‘happy ending’ in Twelfth Night. Throughout the play he flits in between the main characters, and seems like an outsider, though not in the same way as Malvolio. At the end, Feste is left unmarried and isn’t part of any group, but he doesn’t seem necessarily unhappy.
In the play Feste is supposed to be a fool, but more often than not comes across as much more intelligent than all the other characters, and sometimes gives the impression that he is above everyone else, when in reality, he is just a ‘fool’. Feste doesn’t seem to care about his own happiness as much as the other characters do, who are more preoccupied with love. He moves between Orsino’s and Olivia’s houses, and provides good advice to most characters. However, his advice is often concealed within foolish words. Feste is the last one to speak in the play, as he ends Twelfth Night with a song.
The song can be interpreted in a few different ways. There are a few melodies throughout the play, but Feste’s closing song is one of the most gloomy, recounting a story of growing up to find that life is unkind and harsh. Through Feste, Shakespeare leaves the audience with a feeling of unease. A comedy play usually ends with all characters ending up happy and married. However, Twelfth Night is different because there are characters who don’t end up married off at the end, and are actually left feeling hurt, or with no real ending at all.