Twelfth Night

Elusive Happy Medium

Quoted centuries before Shakespeare's birth, the Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus believed that "in everything the middle course is best; all things in excess bring trouble to men." Often times, society focuses its sights on the attainment of concrete and comparable perfection: being the most outgoing, the most intelligent, the most generous, and the wealthiest. Coupled with this desire for excellence comes a fear or disdain for mediocrity: being the least social, least clever, least charitable, and least rich. Rarely does humanity strive for a balance. Shakespeare illustrates that a healthy moral life relies upon the balance of an individual's conflicting desires by revealing the downfall of characters that act out of accordance with this principle-by those individuals that live their lives from one extreme to another. More strikingly however, Shakespeare reveals negative, and occasionally crippling, outcomes caused by entertaining these extremes through the range of disposition of a single character in each play. Evident in the historical plays, Prince Hal's humor ranges from the excessively lackadaisical rogue in Henry IV Part One to the valiant though conceited war-hero-crowned-king in Henry IV...

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