Twelfth Night

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Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Twelfth Night, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon

In Twelfth Night, as in many Shakespearean comedies, there are many similarities between a "high" set of characters, the masters or nobles, and a "low" set of characters, the servants. These separate sets of characters and their parallel plots provide comic counterpoint and also reflect the nature of the Twelfth Night holiday, which was typically celebrated by inverting the ordinary social order—a commoner or fool would dress up and get to play the king. The clown Feste's constant mocking of his "betters" further reinforces this idea of upsetting the social order.

Class and social standing is also a recurring theme in Twelfth Night. The priggish Malvolio is obsessed with status, always condescending to the other servants for their lowliness and dreaming of marrying Olivia and becoming a Count. Sir Andrew Aguecheek also wants to marry Olivia, but stands no chance because of his vulgarity and crassness. In marrying Olivia, even the noble Sebastian is moved in part by her wealth and social standing. Viola, at the beginning of the play, has lost her wealth in a shipwreck and in disguising herself as a page-boy is impersonating a different class from her own. Viola's disguise suggests that class, like gender identity, is to some extent a changeable role that you play by adopting a certain set of clothing and behaviors.

Class, Masters, and Servants ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Class, Masters, and Servants appears in each scene of Twelfth Night. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Class, Masters, and Servants Quotes in Twelfth Night

Below you will find the important quotes in Twelfth Night related to the theme of Class, Masters, and Servants.
Act 1, scene 5 Quotes
Better a witty fool than a foolish wit. (32)
Related Characters: Feste (speaker)
Act 2, scene 3 Quotes
Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale? (108-109)
Related Characters: Sir Toby (speaker), Malvolio
Act 3, scene 1 Quotes
O world! how apt the poor are to be proud. (124)
Related Characters: Olivia (speaker)
Act 3, scene 4 Quotes
Go hang yourselves all! You are idle shallow things; I am not of your element. (113)
Related Characters: Malvolio (speaker), Maria, Sir Toby, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Feste, Fabian
Act 5, scene 1 Quotes
I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you. (384)
Related Characters: Malvolio (speaker), Maria, Sir Toby, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Feste, Fabian