How Does Shakespeare Portray The Theme Of Love In Twelfth Night
In Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night (or What You Will); many different types of love are present and experienced by the characters. These range from true love, to friendship to unrequited love, which is unreturned. Such as the love triangle between the Duke Orsino, Viola/Cesario and Olivia. These three are the main characters; they form the main plot. The sub-plot consists of the antics of Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, Maria and Fabian tricking Malvolio after he spoils their fun.
The main, well-educated characters mainly speak (especially with each other) in Blank Verse, and sometimes with a rhyme scheme, often conveying thoughts of love. Characters in the sub-plot are mainly servants, and therefore speak in prose, which is plain English and not as poetic. The type of love that is predominant in the play, is unrequited love. All three of the main characters fail to return feelings to one of the others as they love, but are rejected by the other. It is clear, even from the first scene that Olivia does not return the duke’s undying love.
He sees love as something pursuing him and not leaving him alone; “fell and cruel hounds e’er since pursue me”. Shakespeare conveys Orsino’s strong feelings for Olivia through hyperbole (over-exaggeration) saying that he might even die id she does not return his love; “the appetite may sicken and so die”. Orsino describes his love for Olivia as an appetite. The opening line, “if music be the food of love, play on” means that this music is what fuels his love for Olivia, and he wants it to be never-ending.
This opening speech is written in blank verse, because Orsino is one of the more educated characters in the play and he is conveying thoughts of love. He liken s Olivia to a nun, “like a cloistress she will veiled walk” implying that he can never be with her. Viola hints to Orsino that she loves him in act 2 scene 4, “if I were a woman, I should [love] your lordship. ” However, Orsino fails to return a comment, he merely wants to know what happened to Cesario’s sister when she fell in love.
Olivia is none-the-wiser that Cesario is actually a woman, and should she have known this, she would not have fallen in love. Yet when Cesario turns to leave she tells him to ‘stay’ and tell her what he thinks of her. This shows she doesn’t want Cesario to leave; this is what a lover would do. Another main type of love is true love. This is when someone has a deep, undying passion for someone else. True love can either be shared or not returned. Most of the main characters experience true love, but sadly it is unrequited because the person being loved is too busy loving another.
The only person who actually marries the person they have true love for is Viola. In Act 2 scene 4, Shakespeare’s dramatic irony when Viola cleverly expresses her true love for the Duke without giving away her true identity by saying “My father had a daughter [who] loved a man,” on the face of this it seems as if Cesario is referring to his sister, when actually it is Viola referring to herself. This is an example of equivocation: when one thing is said but another is meant. Viola then goes on to explain about how she is keeping her true love a secret – “she never told her love”.
But love is not always unfruitful, sometimes happy times can be experienced. When we think of fools or jesters, we think of people employed to make a fool of themselves, by acting ridiculously, to amuse their audience. We do not view fools as methodical, deep thinking or to have views about anything. It would not be right to call Feste a ‘fool’, as he probably has the most down to earth view of love than any of the other characters. He entertains by playing music to make people feel better. He may have the best view of love because he is always observing, never taking part in love.
Often the third party opinion is the most reliable. In his first love song Feste mentions ‘roaming’ suggesting that love is something that must be searched for. He then goes on to say “’tis not hereafter” and “present laughter. ” This implies that love is something that does not last forever, but while it’s there, it’s worth it! Love is not always affection for someone else; it can also be used to refer to someone who is full of themselves. Self love is when a person is very proud of themselves, believing that they are the best and can accomplish anything.
Milfoil is guilty of expressing this sort of love in the play. Malvolio likes to think that he is more important than everyone else. He shows this in act 2 Scene 3, by gatecrashing and breaking up the “party”, he says “My masters, are you mad? Have you no wit, manners nor honesty…? ” By saying this, he makes out that Sir Andrew, Sir Toby, Feste and Maria are all irresponsible and implying that he – Malvolio – must be the responsible one. The other characters recognise his self love, such as in Act 2 Scene 5 where Fabian remarks “look how imagination blows him.
Fabian has observed how Malvolio’s fantasies of being with Olivia have led him to be over confident and full of himself. Malvolio is so sure of his ability to win Olivia over that he is willing to do something that he considers utterly ridiculous if it means he will gain something out of it. It turns out he lost out on this gamble and Olivia lost all respect for him. Olivia recognises that Malvolio is not so humble, and tells him “you are sick of self love, Malvolio” suggesting that his infatuation with himself may be sickening, which is the same idiom that the duke uses to describe love.
Love doesn’t always have to be affection for a person; it can be used to refer to someone’s extreme liking for an object or hobby. In Sir Andrew and Sir Toby’s case, this is alcohol, food, partying and generally having a good time. At the beginning of Act ” Scene 3, Sir Andrew rather quickly convinces Sir Toby that life “consists of eating and drinking”, thus a typical late night jolly time is started, joined later by Feste and Maria.
Shakespeare shows that hedonistic lifestyles are present in Elizabethan England through the use of Sir Toby as an example. Sir Toby appears just to be out for and enjoy life and not take anything seriously, but he really does love Maria, referring to her as his ‘metal of India’ meaning gold which is priceless. And he cares about and respects Olivia – “drinking healths to my niece,” but often combines these feeling with his hedonistic lifestyle. Shakespeare uses many tactics to convey the different kinds of love present in twelfth night.
Most types are allocated to a certain character or group of characters, such as Self Love to Malvolio, but the main types; true love and unrequited love, are associated with the characters in the main plot. Shakespeare uses tactics such as hyperbole, which is mainly in the duke’s case, describing love as all consuming and unescscapeable, when really Olivia is just not interested in him and he can’t accept this. He also uses dramatic irony, ambiguity and equivocation to show hidden love, and love that is kept secret. He also uses the Verse and Blank verse when characters are referring to love.