I sometimes like to think that throughout “Twelfth Night”, Shakespeare is just entertaining the crowd with the joke that Viola is playing a boy in disguise, Caesario. Although it is of course a very useful plot device in the fact that this young page boy is receiving advances from both the Duke and the Duke’s love interest, it is also a very funny sight to imagine a young boy dressed up as a young woman, who then in turn has to pretend to be a young man in the service of the Duke. As women were not allowed to act in productions during Shakespeare’s time, I believe he made the full use of this misogynistic drawback and gave the crowd some comic relief in the form of a twice cross dressing actor.
The humor can be seen in the scenes with the Duke Orsino, when he mentions the fact that Caesario looks more like a girl than a page boy out of puberty. The audience would love this as this young male actor was ridiculed onstage for being too feminine.
A lot of Shakespeare’s plays are comedies in the fact that the dialogue is extremely witty and the audience can interpret it how they like. However, I believe Twelfth Night to be one of his more accomplished comedies, as he combines witty dialogue with some concrete physical humor. The crowd obviously found it extremely funny to see a young male actor transformed so many times onstage, and picturing it in my head I find it funny also.