"A potential site for social disruption... a medium for the message of disent." Discuss with reference to Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night'

IntroWriting in the Elizabethan period, Shakespeare explores several 'site[s] for social disruption' in his play 'Twelfth Night', written in 1602. These include the rigid social hierarchy, the constraining gender roles, and the lack of social acceptance of homosexuality. Thus, in displaying characters who subvert conventions within such 'site[s]', Shakespeare is able to submit several messages concerning social dissent. It is arguably such which makes 'Twelfth Night' so appealing, offering to audiences both in the 17th century and today a release from social order, but at the same time indicating subtle messages about the effects of such social dissent.Para 1Social dissent is immediately obvious in the play when considering the character of Malvolio, through whom Shakespeare suggests that a desire to break the social order will immediately lead to social exclusion. Malvolio, a steward, is not content with his place in society, desiring to be count Malvolio. Whilst his aspirations may have been shocking to a Shakespearean audience, influenced by the rigid Elizabethan social structure, such aspiration could be seen as some, in a modern context, to champion the blur between social classes to a point where class has no consequence. In such a way, Malvolio can be viewed as a hero of liberal humanist criticism, which draws upon the right of the individual to break social order and achieve their own success in society, no longer constrained by social order. Indeed Malvolio even states his wish to 'from upon Sir Toby and the lighter people." As Jerry Brottan describes, such a view directly challenges "the structural division dividing and imprisoning groups in society." Malvolio demonstrates a dissent against social order.

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