Puritan Versus Player in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night
Dr. Mary Villeponteaux, Literature
William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night stands out among other Elizabethan era dramas in that it includes music. While music in entertainment is not a foreign concept to modern audiences, the use of music in Elizabethan drama was nearly unheard of. Through my research, I argue that Shakespeare’s use of musicality is not only defying theatrical tradition, but within Twelfth Night specifically, music serves as a vehicle to critique the sociopolitical turmoil of 16th century England. The nearly simultaneous rise of religious conservatism and rise of the arts (specifically theatre) created conflicts that permeated the written work of figures on both sides of the ideological argument. In the case of Shakespeare, Twelfth Night explores the tense, complicated relationship between Puritans and patrons of the arts that marked the end of Elizabeth I’s reign. The culture clash of Puritans and players is manifested in the play by the quick-witted clown Feste and the uptight steward Malvolio. The interactions between the two characters on stage, namely Feste’s jovial songs, create a satire of the rising Puritan movement and those indoctrinated by it. As the play progresses and Malvolio fails to adapt to a society without hierarchy, Shakespeare illustrates the flaws in Puritan doctrine as well as the benefits of the arts.
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Snow, Julia Ann, "Puritan Versus Player in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night" (2020). Curio Research Symposium. 73.