Answer: Twelfth Night is the most delightful Shakespearean comedy because it has an abundance of sweetness. Hazlitt even thought that the play is too good to be deemed as a comedy. Moreover, it has very little satire, and is more concerned with the ludicrous than the ridiculous. Shakespeare has already been very gentle while exposing the follies at mankind. We may laugh at them but we cannot hate them, leave alone bear any malice towards them. Shakespeare’s comedies resemble the bee which extracts the sweetness from the weeds or poisons, then leaving behind a sting. His exaggerates the prevailing follies of his characters in such an amusing manner characters themselves in their happiest of lights, being offended at it. He creates opportunities for his characters to show themselves in there happiest of lights, instead of making them detestable. There is an absurdity of nonsense, though nothing is indifferent or severe.
Most critics believe that Shakespeare was rather careless in naming his comedies. He was very precise in naming his historical and tragic plays. His historical plays have the names of the kings, be they English or Roman, on whom they were written. Thus we have such titles as King Henry IV, King Henry V, and Julius Caesar etc. He named his tragedies after the hero of the play, thus giving us titles like King Lear, Othello, Macbeth and Hamlet. Since his love tragedies were concerned as much with the heroines as the heroes their titles had both their names. Thus we have Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra etc. It was, however in the comedies that he became very fanciful and even fanciful, while giving the plays a title. The fanciful titles are keeping with the concept of comedy, and most of them can be explained in such termed as farcical.
The clown makes a great contribution to the Comedy in this play. He amuse us when he says that manyhanging prevents a bad Marriage, He amuses us by his witty comment on the Duke when he exposes the Duke’s melancholy, changeableness’ and inconstancy of purpose. He amuses us he says that Olivia will keep a fool in her household when she gets married (meaning that her husband will be the fool for having married her), and he amuses by proving Olivia’s folly in mourning for her brother’s soul being in heaven. We also feel amused by the manner in which the Clown coaxes the Duke to give him a little more money when the Duke needs the Clown’s help in speaking to Olivia.
Twelfth Night would lose much of its comedy if Sir Toby did not have a part in the play. Sir Toby amuses us by his wit by his gulling of Sir Andrew and Viola,and by his harassment of Malvolio. Sir Toby is very fond of drink and, when scolded by Maria for his drunkenness, he defends himself by saying thathedrinks to the health of his niece and that he will continue to do so as long there is a passage in his throat and liquor available in Illyria. He gives an excellent retort to Malvolio when he says. “Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale? This remark of Sir Toby has become famous and is often quoted as an argument against Puritanism. Sir Toby befools Sir Andrew by extorting money from him. He plays upon Sir Andrew’s vanity by complimenting him on his dancing, on his bravery as a fighter,on the excellent language of the challenge that he has written, and so on. But we are well aware of Sir Andrew’s cowardice and the idiotic manner in which he has written the challenge addressed to Cesario. Thus, we laugh with Sir Toby at Sir Andrew.
The Clown provides much entertainment when he plays the role of a priest and speaks to Malvolio as if the latter were possessed with the devil. He makes fun of Malvolio for holding an opinion contrary to that of Pythagoras. Indeed Clown’s part in the comic under plot of the persecution of Malvolio is considerable, though this fouling exceeds the limits of decency.
Much of the humor in this play arises from what is known as a comic irony. Viola is throughout mistaken by various persons as a man, but we know her real identity. The Duke treats her as a man and deputes her to woo Olivia on his behalf Olivia falls in love with Viola. Thinking her to be a man Sir Toby brings about a duel between her and Sir Andrew, because he too thinks Viola to be a man. The Clown mistakes Sebastian for Cesario. Sir Andrew hits Sebastian, thinking him to be Cesario. Olivia gets married to Sebastian under the impression that he is Cesario. All these situations have comic irony, because we know the true facts, while the characters in the play (with the exception of Viola) are ignorant of those facts. The mistakes and blunders caused by mistaken identity are a rich source of comedy in the play.