Love in Twelfth Night

8 August 2016

“The course of true love never did run smooth” is one of Shakespeare’s infamous quotes from one of his plays, namely, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is a quote that remains timeless throughout the ages and is centered on the theme of love and it explores the hardships associated with being In ‘true love’. Such is the same in Shakespeare’s depiction and presentation of love in another play written by him, which will be the main focus, Twelfth Night. The quote addresses Shakespeare’s depiction of the theme of love especially in regards to the two main themes of love—unrequited and true love.

Additionally, he highlights minor types of love such as brotherly (love between siblings), friendly love (love between friends) and narcissistic love specifically the idea of being in love. In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare seems to promote the image of unrequited love throughout the play up until the resolution. This image of love is manifested in the illustration of a love triangle, in which Viola loves Orsino, who loves Olivia, who in turn loves Viola/Cesario; thus completing the triangle.

Love in Twelfth Night Essay Example

The spectacle responsible for love being unrequited is disguise. The dilemma of viols love not being returned is not intentional or due to preference but is as a result of circumstance; that circumstance being disguise. It is Viola’s disguise as a male, taking on the appearance of a male (her own brother Sebastian), that make it difficult for Orsino to love her. She has manipulated her features so that her disposition is feigned and hence her true identity is withheld.

This is the reason for which Orsino is unable to return her affection. Shakespeare uses this as an opportunity to depict love as not always ‘running smooth’ but having barriers. For Orsino is naturally fond of her, despite her masculine guise, as he shows his affection towards her; commenting on her/his appearance as having feminine like qualities.

Evidence is also given of his fondness towards Cesario in Act 2 Scene 4 when Valentine, an attendant of Orsino’s Court, remarks “If the Duke continues these favors towards you Cesario, you are like to be much advanced; he hath known you but three days and already you are no stranger” and even Orsino himself states: “I have unclasped to thee the book even of my secret soul”, but the fact that she is perceived as a male, it quashes any lingering thoughts. Hence, he directs his energy to Olivia, who passionately professes his love for. He does this with expressions such as “O when mine eyes did see Olivia at first methought she purg’d the air of pestilence and that instant I turn’d into a hart and mine desires, like fell and cruel hounds ever since pursue me”.

However, Olivia in a state of mourning and grievance over the death of her father and more recently her brother refuses to attend to matters concerning love. Later, when she is confronted by Cesario, who becomes the Dukes messenger, she seems not to be charmed by it refers to it as ‘heresy’-false doctrine. She remarks, “Oh I have read it – it is heresy” and in another breathe she remarks “Your lord does know my mind, I cannot love him”. At the second leg of the triangle is Olivia expressing her love for Cesario/Viola.

In doing this, she send Malvolio, her steward, with tokens in the form of a ring and messages to declare her passion. Her words “By maid hood, honour, truth, and everything I love thee so that, mauge all my pride, nor wilt nor reason, can my passion hide” summarizes her feelings and emotions towards Cesario/Viola. However, Cesario, in turn, being female and of the same gender, is not attracted to her and so the situation creates the foundation for unrequited love.

Viola acknowledges the complication caused by her disguise and remarks “Disguise, I see thou art a wickedness”. Viola recognizes the predicament caused by her own actions and remarks subsequently “I am man, my state is desperate for my master’s love, as I am woman (now alas the day! ) what thriftless signs poor Olivia breathe? ”. Thus highlighting disguise being the root of the unrequited love affair. It is through these scenarios that Shakespeare presents love as not always being returned; a realistic fact of love.

It is through these characters in Twelfth Night that he airs his perception of love; the fact that complications can pose as great threats or hindrances in love being revealed and returned or the fact that no matter how much one (such as Viola) may love another (Orsino) the reality is the object of affection may never know how you are feeling, as depicted by the relations between Viola and Orsino. Or might not love you back, as in the case of Olivia and Orsino. Nevertheless, albeit, unrequited love is popular throughout the play, there is also true love surfacing. True love is a significant type of love present in Twelfth Night.

Shakespeare uses the character, Viola, to depict his perception of love. In contrast to Olivia, who seems to have no difficulty transferring her affections from one love interest to another; thus signaling that her affections run ‘skin deep’ and in contrast to Orsino, who is obsessed with Olivia and his sate of being in love, Viola is the only character who seems to be truly passionately in love as her love is directed to one person throughout the play. Her poignant plight, only serves to highlight, even more, the depth, strength and truth of her feelings and emotions toward Orsino when compared to the fickle passions of the other characters.

Violas purity of love appears even more radiant when outlined against the others. With this, Shakespeare reveals the sincerity of love as opposed to the false and mistaken or self-indulgent lovesick passions. Viola, Shakespeare device, who he uses to depict truelove, summarizes the purity of her love with words directed to Orsino, describing herself and her love for him as “ prized in thought, and her love for him, she pined in thought, and with green and yellow melancholy, she sat like a patience in a monument, smiling at grief. Was this not love indeed?

Here Shakespeare highlights and addresses the matter of hardships or adversities that ever so common with true love. He depicts it as not being ‘a bed of roses’ or smoothing running and joyous all the time but as something that requires patience, endurance and stick-to-itiveness before one can receive the reward of returned affection as in the end when the disguise ids removed and Orsino realizes his affection for viola. Shakespeare before revealing the optimistic side of love reveals true love as occasionally being painful (‘smiling at grief’) and heart aching, especially when the object of the affection is oblivious.

Shakespeare not only concentrates on intimate love but illumines other types of love too. Brotherly love, a minor love theme, is also depicted in the play by which Shakespeare employs Sebastian and viola and even Olivia and her brother to highlight Brotherly love, a shift from the surreal intricacies of true love and the heartaches of unrequited love stories revealed in the play is quite a refreshing change.

Shakespeare chooses to use the depiction of love to emphasize the love between siblings while alluding to the realities of siblings relationships, especially feelings evoked after the loss of a sibling or the experiences of ‘finding’ a lost sibling. The relationship between Viola and Sebastian is pretty close. Shakespeare capitalized upon this, being the optimist he is, as it is the relationship that promulgates brotherly love. When Viola enters Scene 2 of Act 1 upon acknowledging her ‘almost escape’ from death, her first thought is for her brother; he is still missing but Viola refuses to believe that his is indeed dead – “For in saying so, there’s gold: mine own escape unfoldedth to my hope whereto thy speech serves the authority, the like of him”.

It is this scene that Shakespeare introduces the fact that love between siblings never truly dies for amidst the odds of there being no sign of Sebastian’s survival of the shipwreck or presence on shore, Viola never truly concluded that he might be dead but resolves to having hope; hope that he is still alive. This is seen after the captain’s remarks, “It is perchance that you yourself were sav’d” to which Viola comments “O my poor brother! And so perchance may he be”.

Sebastian, similarly, expresses the same affection of love towards his sister, Speaking highly of her; “Yet of many accounted beautiful, she bore a mind envy could not but call her fair”, realistically but sweetly lamenting on her ‘death’, “She has already drowned sir, with salt water, though I seem to drown her remembrance again with more”. The ‘with more’ mentioned her meaning tears. Shakespeare explores the realities of love between siblings and the pain endured associated with losing one.

In contrast, Shakespeare in his depiction of brotherly love show the joys affiliated with ‘finding’ a loved one, such as when Viola is mistaken for Sebastian by Antonio, and is reassured that he lives by Antonio mistaking her for him. Her response, “Methinks his words do such passion fly that he believes himself; so do not I! Prove true imagination, o prove true that I dear brother, be taken for you! ” reveals her hope and anticipation cohered with enthusiasm “O prove true tempests are kind and salt waves fresh in love”.

The last Act, Act 5 and Scene 1, portrays the action of the two rejoicing; the overwhelming joy and happiness accompanying the moment. Sebastian saying “ I should my tears let fall upon your cheeks and say ‘trice welcome, drowned Viola’” disposing his feelings to his long lost sister which responds similarly. Olivia too reveals her love for her brother. She is seen ‘ watering her chamber once a day, with eye-offending brine; all to the season- a brother’s dead love, which she keeps fresh and lasting in her remembrance’, thus illustrating the bond and love they shared, not wanting to forget him.

She pines away over the loss of him and ceases to continue her life of normalcy. This brotherly love is also revealed in the Captain’s description of her—being, “A virtuous maid, the daughter of a count that died some twelfthmonth since; then leaving her in the protection of his son, her brother, who shortly after also died; for whose dear love (they say) she hath abjur’d the company and sight of men”. In addition Shakespeare depicts friendly love. Love between friends is manifested in the characters Sebastian and Antonio. Here Shakespeare depicts this love as priceless and invaluable.

He highlights some of the aspect characterizing friendly love such as self-sacrifice as when Antonio vouches to accompany Sebastian despite his bad history in the land and the risk of being imprisoned by the Duke or his servants as has ‘enemies in Orsino’s Court’. Shakespeare also depicts the inseparability and selflessness “Will you stay no longer? Nor will you not I that go with thee” and “if you will not murder me for my love, let me be your servant”, as Antonio expresses not wanting to part company or experience the aches of separation.

Even Sebastian expresses the same feelings after they are reunited—“Antonio! O my dear Antonio, how the hours rack’d and tortur’d me since I have left thee! ” Shakespeare also depicts the concern and consideration associated with friendly love, as when Antonio accompanies Sebastian out of fear that something might befall his friend, remarking to Sebastian “Being swordless in these parts: which to a stranger unguided and unfriended, often prove rough and inhospitable” and continues, “My willing love the rather by these arguments of fear set forth in your pursuit”.

Shakespeare also depicts friendly love as embodying kindness. Such as the kindness shown to Sebastian when Antonio willingly gave him his purse; in the case that he wished to purchase ‘some toy’ being it that he did not think that Sebastian had enough of his own money to do so. Also in the same gesture he offers to order them meals. Here Shakespeare not only depicts the intricacies of friendship but highlights aspects such as going beyond the ‘call of duty’.

The last type under the theme of love being explored is narcissistic love, specifically the idea of being in love, which is undoubtedly explored in Shakespeare character Orsino. Orsino, a powerful nobleman in the country of Illyria is one so lovesick for the beautiful lady Olivia that he becomes somewhat a vehicle that Shakespeare explores the absurdity of love. Orsino, being a supreme egotist, mopes around complaining how lovesick he is over Olivia. However, his actions clearly signify that he chiefly is in love with the idea of being in love and enjoys making a spectacle of himself.

He claims to be buffeted by strong emotions but ultimately is seen to be self-indulgent and one who enjoys melodrama and self-involvement more than anything. Orsino pines away in ‘love’ for Olivia that he pities himself with words like, “If music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it, surfeiting, the appetite may sicken and so die”. He is so consumed with self-indulgence rather than true love as instead of going personally in a humble manner to Olivia her sends messengers to ‘woo’ her; to “surprise her with discourse” than to express true feelings.

He does so, in the aims that they will ‘act his woes’ much to his gratification, one element that is obviously not associated with true love but with narcissistic love. It is through this spectacle that Shakespeare depicts the demented and delusional side of love. Shakespeare reveals love as being self gratifying and obsessive wearing away in melancholies and pining away in music thinking it would ‘relieve passion much’.

Shakespeare depicts this side of love as impacting the individual in such that they show no interest in relating to the outside world preferring to lock themselves up with their sorrows and mope around their home. Shakespeare depicts it as insane and of being nothing but petty pride; it being they do it for reason regarding self and indulgence and of no real strong, genuine or sincere emotion. In closure, Shakespeare depicts the theme of love in Twelfth Night , as being technical having many sides to the various types of loves.

First, he identifies the diversity among the general theme of love in such a manner that her presents both sides the optimistic perspective and the pessimistic side. He does so in an astounding manner uses the personality and actions of his characters to reveal it in the play. He, then, explored the realities of true love, unrequited love, and the features of love within friendship, the pains and joys associated with brotherly love and the fragmented illusion and absurdity of narcissistic love in its entirety.

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