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The Different Types of Love Presented in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night
True love is sincere based on actions and sacrificial services to make the other happy. It is always quiet and in disguise. It’s based on inner qualities and driven by reason, principles of trust and commitment. True love is centered on pleasing the other and is more permanent; growing stronger as time passes. Infatuation on the other hand, is insincere and driven by emotions. It’s superficial; based on words and displays of affection. Infatuation is also self-centered; based on external appearances. It expects the other to meet your needs. Moreover, it’s temporary. It’s just a phase that one goes through. William Shakespeare shows us these two types of love outlining the entire play. However, there are more than just these types of love being presented in the play. There is also friendship and self-love, which are two other kinds of love, which is presented in the play. Sir Andrew and Malvolio show self-love in the play. Friendship is also another kind of love that is being presented in the play by Orsino and ‘Caesario’. Almost every type of love is being expressed in this play. Sibling relationships, genuine love, self-love leading to complete blind love. The characters also seem to go to extremes to get want they want which is the love that they desire. From this we can sometimes even associate love with their madness to
get what they want.
In the play, Twelfth Night, we can see that Orsino’s romantic infatuation for Olivia leads to sentimental his own self-absorption. We can see this by the quote, “ If music be the food of love, play on, /Give me excess of it, that surfeiting, /he appetite may sicken and so die.”. Here Orsino is relating music to love. Too much or excess music, meaning over-indulgence in music is actually being compared with overeating food. Just like how overeating makes one feel sick, over-indulgence in music in this case, over-indulgence in love for Olivia makes one lovesick and desperate. From another quote, “ Love thoughts lie rich when canopied with bowers” tells us that he needs his surroundings to be very romantic to be able to love. Orsino seems to love Olivia only in such conditions and he feels that his so strong for her that even in a short period of time, his love is so full of fancies. This clearly shows us that his love is actually infatuation for Olivia, as none’s love gets strong within just a short period of time. “O sprit of love, how quick and fresh art thou,” tells us that Orsino is saying that lovers are so hungry that for their lovers that that other good things in life seem to lose their value. The lover is completely wrapped up in his own fertile and intense imagination. This tells us that his love for Olivia is a self-absorbed love.
Also, Olivia’s exaggerated and over-indulged love for her dead brother leads to excessive grief, self- dramatization and self-pity. We can see this from her speech that Valentine made to Orsino regarding Olivia, “The element itself, till seven years’ heat, /Shall not behold her face at ample view, / But, like a cloistress, she will veiled walk, / And water once a day her chamber round/ With eye-offending brine; all this to season/ A brother’s dead love, which she would keep fresh/ And lasting, in her sad remembrance.”. We can see that that this speech on what Olivia does is exaggerated, as she wants the whole world to know that she is mourning for her dead brother. This shows us that this act of over-indulgence of love shown for her brother leads to self-dramatization of own self. We can also see this, as from the speech, we can see her passion that she has for her dead brother and we can see this passion being displayed in her loyalty and devotion to her brother by mourning for him, which is also self-dramatized. From this act of grieving for her brother we can also see that she is being very emotional here. We can see that she is very emotional here as she expresses her emotions excessively. This tells us that this act of mourning for her dead brother does not only lead to self-dramatization, it also leads to excessive grief being shown out to others. We can also see that this exaggerated and over-indulged love for her brother that she displays also leads to self-pity as through her act of mourning. We can see this by the tears she cries from the lines “eye-offending brine” that she wallows in self-pity as she is only crying to get attention from others so that others would pity her. Olivia’s love is demonstrated through the external in this sense it is simply by her tears. There appears a lack of sincerity or genuine love in her actions. In fact, she appears to be self-absorbed. Her mourning draws more attention to her than to her brother. One example showing that is when Orsino himself later praises Olivia and hardly mentions her brother at all. This happens when Orsino says, “ How will she love, when rich golden shaft Hath killed the flock of all affections else that live in her; when liver, brain, and heart, These sovereign thrones, are all supplied and filled, her sweet perfections, with one self king!”. Everything that Orsino said was all about “she”, Olivia. Nothing of anything that he said was to do with Olivia’s dead brother. This shows that Olivia only gets pity from others, which in addition is considered as getting self-pity from others like the count Orsino.
Moreover, Olivia’s impulsive and reckless love for ‘Caesario’ is ironically as misjudged and misguided as Orsino’s love for her. We can see that Olivia fell in love with ‘Caesario’ impulsively and recklessly from the quote, “Not too fast! soft, soft”. From this quote, we can see that she fears that she’s falling in love too fast and gets carried away by her love for ‘Caesario” which shows how fast she actually has fallen in love with ‘Caesario’ which shows us her reckless and impulsive love for ‘Caesario’. It is ironically misjudged and misguided as Orsino’s love for her. We can see this the fact that since Orsino’s love for her is superficial and Olivia’s love for ‘Casario’ is also as superficial as Orsino’s is for her. We can see this as she is carried away by her emotions. We can see this from the quote, “I do I know not what, and fear to find/ Mine eye too great a flatterer for my mind.”. This quote tells us that she is carried away by what she feels and what she sees but by not her mind. From this we can tell that her love is superficial as it acts on her emotions, which she feels when she feels, infatuated by ‘Caesario’.
Olivia also could be accused for self-love, for revealing a rather vain and proud disposition. We can see this from the quote, “Is’t not well done?”. From this quote, we can see that she is rather vain. Another quote, “Were you sent hither to praise me” tells us that Olivia has a rather proud disposition of herself. From this quote, we can see that she is lost in her own praise and thinks that everyone wants to see her because of her beauty which is not true at all. So from this we can see that Olivia does display self-love revealing a vain and proud disposition of herself.
In the play Malvolio’s self-love is one of the most extreme and unpleasant kind, resulting in overweening pride and self-delusion. The quote, “wise men, that crow so at these set kind of fools, no better than the fools’ zanies.” We can see that Malvolio thinks that he is clever than most wise men, thus being arrogant and this leads to showing us that he has overweening pride of himself. He also called Feste a “barren rascal”. This shows that Malvolio sees himself as a very witty person as he called Feste a witless person by calling him a “barren rascal”. Another quote, “Maria once told me that she did affect me; and I have heard herself come thus near, that should she fancy, it should be one of my complexion.” shows us Malvoilo is thinking himself handsome and noble enough for “she” who is Olivia. Malvolio is blind as he deceives himself just to suit the outlook of the situation. Another example is when in the play he twists ‘Olivia’s’ words around to make it sound like she admires his yellow cross-gartered stockings, when Olivia really despises them.
Sir Andrew is similarly guilty of self-love. He thinks that people love him because he is witty and dashing. He also reveals a vain disposition of himself, being accused of self-love. We can see from the quote, “Faith, I can cut a caper.” shows us that Sir Andrew is being vain as he praises himself. This also shows his egoistic character. We can see from that quote that he is dashing as he can “cut a caper”. Fro this we can see that Sir Andrew has self-love for himself. Another quote, “Methinks sometimes I have no more wit than a Christian or an ordinary man has”. From this quote, we can also see Sir Andrew thinking that he is witty. Sir Andrew that people loves him because he is witty and dashing. Both of which, he is not at all. So from all this we can see the fact that he has self-love.
In Antonio, the play demonstrates the generous and selfless nature of the love inspired by true friendship. We can see this from the quote, “If you will not murder me for my love, let me be your servant. From this quote, we can see Antonio showing very passionate love for Sebastian. We can also see him being sacrificial, as he wants to serve Sebastian by being his servant. “let me be you servant” suggests that Antonio wants to follow Sebastian, wants to protect him and wants to be with him. From all this we can see his selfless nature of love that is inspired by true friendship as he puts Sebastian before himself. From the quote, we can also tell his sincerity and generosity that he has by being sincere to Sebastian and also truly being generous by laying out his own self to be Sebastian’s servant.
Also in Sebastian and Viola we can see the intimate and intense love between brother and sister. The first thing Viola says when she steps into lllyria is that, “My brother, he is in Elysium”.From this we can tell that what she said is being said sincerely as the focus is on her brother and not on herself. We can also see that from the fact that the statement said that it was a short, simple and direct statement. From that quote, we can see Viola displaying love for Sebastian by worrying for him thinking that he is dead. From this we can see the intense and intimate love between her and her brother, Sebastian. Sebastian on the other hand also displays the same affection that Viola displays for him without he himself knowing it as they have been separated at sea. Sebastian while talking to Antonio about Viola says, “She is drowned already, sir, with salt water, though I seem to drown her remembrance again with more”. From what he says we can see that he has a close relationship with his sister, Viola. It also shows that Sebastian is a sensitive person that loves his sister, Viola very much. Through even their times of sorrow and mourning for each of their apparent deaths they still loved each other. Both believed deep down in their hearts that maybe someway or by some miracle that each of them was still alive and well. Through all this we can see the intimate and intense love that both brother and sister, Sebastian and Viola share between each other.
Another kind of love portrayed in this play is true love like Viola’s. Viola’s patient and consistent love for Orsino is perhaps the most selfless, generous and ennobling of all. The quote, “We men say more, swear more, but indeed/Our shows are more than will; for still we prove/Much in our vows, but little in our love.”. Viola here says how a women’s (herself) love is more faithful, mature, and sincere than men. From this we can see Viola love being the most ennobling of all. Another quote “Too well what love women to men may owe. / In faith, they are as true of heart as we.” From this quote, we can see the sincerity of Viola’s love for Orsino. “And with a green and yellow melancholy/ She sat like Patience on a monument”. This quote tells us of Viola’s patience; that her patience is stable and unchanging. In only true love can unchanging and stable patience for the person you love can be found. Thus, from this we can see the true love that Viola has for Orsino. When Orsino asks her history, Viola says, “A blank, my lord. She never told her love, / But let concealment, like a worn i’th’bud, / Feed on her damask check. She pined in thought,” this quote tells us of Viola’s intense love that is not shown to Orsino. By her words we can tell of her hidden, long suffering that is killing her slowly. This shows her being sacrificial to Orsino, which shows us of her selfless love. Another example of her selfless love for Orsino is when she tells Orsino, “ I’ll do my best/ To woo your lady.” From this we can see that she sacrifices her own happiness for his. “[Aside] Yet a barful strife! / Whoever I woo, myself would be his wife.” This quote is very powerful and strong as it may be observed in the soliloquy, which shows Viola’s true self, which ends the scene in a rhyming couplet. The love she displays here is sacrificial as she yet again sacrifices her own happiness to make Orsino happy to get what she wants which is to be by him and to serve him. This shows the selfless nature of her love and also the generosity she displays by
wanting to serve Orsino which is also the noblest as she does not exaggerate or use flowery language to express her true love for Orsino.
Now, another kind of love displayed here is friendship, which I earlier mentioned which both Antonio and Sebastian shared. Another pair who share friendship is Orsino and ‘Caesario’. They do not even know each other very well but they got very close within a short period of time. We can see this from the quote, “He hath known you but three days, and already you are no stranger.”. We also can see that Orsino’s and ‘Caesario”s relationship is close from the quote, “Who saw ‘Caesario’ ho?”. This quote tells us that the first person out of all the servants in his court he calls upon is ‘Caesario’ which tells us that ‘Caesario’ is his favourite and that they have a very close relationship. Also we can see that he trusts only ‘Caesario’ to do such a thing as to go and help him woo Olivia, who is his love. To that ‘Caesario’ says “Sure, my noble lord,” and is reluctant to go which shows us that they have an understanding of each other. Thus, from this we can see that they have a close relationship as good friends. Another friendship is between Viola and the Sea Captain. They survived the shipwreck together and the Sea Captain promised to keep Viola’s idea about pretending to be a man a secret. If the Sea Captain did say anything at all about this in the play, the entire play of “Twelfth Night” would have changed. We know that he had agreed to keep Viola pretending to be man a secret from the quote, “Be you his eunuch and your mute I’ll be. / When my tongue blabs, then let mine eyes not see.”. From this quote, we even can see that he told Viola that if he told anyone about this his eyes shall be put out, as in to say that Viola may blind him from sight. Thus, we can see a very strong bond of friendship among them. Yet another form of friendship being displayed in the play which is the strangest is the friendship that which both Sir Toby and Sir Andrew share. They are close friends but sometimes Sir Toby does not appear to show it as he sets up Sir Andrew and likes to get him into trouble. From the quote, “Will either of you bear me a challenge to him?”, we can see that Sir Toby challenged Sir Andrew to a duel. This happens in Act three Scene two, even though Sir Andrew is not a good swordsman and he does not know it. However, Sir Andrew appreciates Sir Toby’s company as Sir Toby always lifts up his spirits whenever he is “put down” and makes him feel like a “true knight”.
Twelfth Night” consists of many love triangles, however many of the characters that are tangled up in the web of love are blind to see that their emotions and feelings toward other characters are untrue. They are being deceived by themselves and/or the others around them. There are certain instances in the play where the emotion of love is true, and the two people involved feel very strongly toward one another. Viola’s love for Orsino is a great example of true love. Although she is pretending to be a man and is virtually unknown in Illyria, she hopes to win the Duke’s heart. In act 1, scene 4, Viola let’s out her true feelings for Cesario, “yet a barful strife! Whoe’er I woo, myself would be his wife.” That statement becomes true when Viola reveals her true identity. Viola and Orsino had a very good friendship, and making the switch to husband and wife was easy. Viola was caught up in another true love scenario, only this time she was on the receiving end, and things didn’t work out so smoothly. During her attempts to court Olivia for Orsino, Olivia grew to love Cesario. Viola was now caught in a terrible situation and there was only one way out, but that would jeopardize her chances with Orsino. It’s amazing that Olivia could fall for a woman dressed as a man, but because Viola knew what women like to hear, her words won Olivia’s heart. This is just one of the love triangle that occurs in the play.
“Twelfth Night” is a romantic comedy, and romantic love is the play’s main focus. Despite the fact that the play offers a happy ending, in which the various lovers find one another and achieve wedded bliss, Shakespeare shows that love can cause pain. Many of the characters seem to view love as a kind of curse, a feeling that attacks its victims suddenly and disruptively. Various characters claim to suffer painfully from being in love, or, rather, from the pangs of unrequited love. At one point, Orsino depicts love dolefully as an “appetite” that he wants to satisfy and cannot; at another point, he calls his desires “fell and cruel hounds”. Olivia more bluntly describes love as a “plague” from which she suffers terribly. These metaphors contain an element of violence, further painting the love-struck as victims of some random force in the universe. Even the less melodramatic Viola sighs unhappily “My state is desperate for my master’s love”. This desperation has the potential to result in violence—as in Act five Scene one, when Orsino threatens to kill ‘Cesario’ because he thinks that ‘Cesario’ has forsaken him to become Olivia’s lover. So from this we can see that “Twelfth Night” is also a romantic comedy which is yet another theme of love that is being presented in the play.
Love is also exclusionary in this play as some people achieve romantic happiness, while others do not. At the end of the play, as the happy lovers rejoice, both Malvolio and Antonio are prevented from having the objects of their desire. Malvolio, who has pursued Olivia, must ultimately face the realization that he is a fool, socially unworthy of his noble mistress. Antonio is in a more difficult situation, as social norms do not allow for the gratification of his apparently sexual attraction to Sebastian. Love, thus, cannot conquer all obstacles, and those whose desires go unfulfilled remain no less in love but feel the sting of its absence all the more severely. Love plays a major role in “Twelfth Night,” and Shakespeare addresses true love, self-love and friendship in a very compelling and interesting way. “Twelfth Night” is the true definition of love, and I feel that Shakespeare does a great job of explaining a somewhat difficult topic,
which is love.
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