Topic 6-Flexibility of Language and Communication

In chapter 9 of Bill Kovarik’s Revolutions in Communication, Kovarik addresses the development of the television and the impact the new technology has had on media since the invention’s infancy. Kavorik claims that, “television embodied the dream of universal international communication…” (Kavorik, 236). Before media such as print, photographs, radio, and television, the theater was the closest form of “universal international communication” (236). Similar to the FCC’s instances of broadcasting regulation in the years following WWII and the civil rights movement, the English crown regulated theater companies in London (Kavorik 239, 250; Zarilli, 206). The Puritans in 1660, just like Plato’s view of the theater, “feared that mimicry and spectacle would corrupt people’s reason” (Zarilli, 207).

William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night; Or What You Will serves as an overarching metaphor for the versatility of language and the fragility of communication. The title itself includes the indecisive phrase, “Or What You Will”, which allows the reader the freedom to choose another title for the play, furthering the theme of the flexibility of language. Feste, the jester, says in act III, “A sentence is but a chev’ril glove to a good wit. How quickly the wrong side may be turned outward! (Shakespeare, 3.1.311-313). Feste claims that sentences are similar to thin material; He suggests that words can be easily warped or turned inside out. Feste, as a jester, is a master of wit and puns. The clown’s statements about language and his twisting of words reflect the essence of Twelfth Night festivities in Tudor England. “The Twelfth Night marked the end of a winter festival that started on All Hallows Eve… A King or Lord of Misrule would be appointed to run the… festivities… The common theme was that the normal order of things was reversed” ( Additionally, letters and poetry concerning love interests move throughout Twelfth Night as the play reflects on danger of written words and the folly of man.

Analogously to The Importance of Being Earnest, Twelfth Night; Or What You Will, addresses aestheticism and the artificiality of life. As Viola (a woman played by a young boy) assumes the identity of Cesario (the character of a young boy, played by a young woman who is played by a young boy) questions the accuracy of realness and reality. Viola claims at the play’s start, “Doth oft close in pollution… I’ll serve this duke. Thou shalt present me as a eunuch to him. It may be worth my pains… ” (Shakespeare, 1.2.46, 54-56). She states that “nature often conceals a person’s inward corruption with outward beauty”(Norton, 473). Then, Viola ironically announces that she will serve the Orsino in a disguise: her outward appearance hiding her inner one.


  1. How does the Kavorik chapter on television relate further to the play?
  1. The idea of flipping gender roles has been a topic in our class concerning other plays. What makes this one unique? Is it significance of where and when the play was written and performed originally? The Zarilli chapter speaks to this in the case study, but I’m curious to see what other opinions are about this.
  1. I would like to know more about Malvolio’s role in the play. What is his significance? He suffers from the flexibility of language unlike any of the other characters.