Treatment Of Love In Twelfth Night

This essay sample on Treatment Of Love In Twelfth Night provides all necessary basic information on this matter, including the most common “for and against” arguments. Below are the introduction, body and conclusion parts of this essay.

Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is in essence a romantic comedy. The theme of love is implemented into both the main and sub plots throughout the endurance of the play; doing so from different perspectives and an array of forms. The other themes in Shakespeare’s play, such as madness and humour, all coincidentally have an inextricable link with one another.

The emphasis of love in Shakespeare’s plots have been built upon the foundations of disguise and deceit; and as a result, enhances the humour and entertainment of the overall play.

Shakespeare typically ends Twelfth Night like all his other romantic comedies, with love prevailing in the end with a marriage; or in this case, a series of marriages. The most glaringly obviously form of love in the play is romantic love, which interestingly enough is never taken from a realistic perspective from any of the leading characters contributing to the theme.

For example, the play opens with a speech by the most powerful man in the play, Duke Orsino, who starts by saying “If music be the food of love, play on”.

This basically establishes right from the opening of the play that Twelfth Night is based on love. Orsino’s opening line is promptly contradicted in line 7 when he says “Enough, no more; – ‘Tis not so sweet as it was before”.

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This opening segment basically explains to the audience that they should not be surprised if a character’s perspective of love is seen as fantasy like and differs from their own perspective. Orsino’s character is the first to be exposed in the play, which Shakespeare has used to create an immediate impact on the audience.

What Does Shakespeare Say About Love In Twelfth Night

Orsino is obviously new to the emotion of love and his contradiction in speech supports this. He is ignorant to the feeling and therefore does not posses any knowledge of the significance of love as witnessed through his later actions. Although Orsino can be seen to be naive of what love entails, his character begins the line of a host of others who are similarly as ignorant and unaware as himself, but takes the aspect of love from a different perspective. Orsino defines love through a series of metaphors as opposed to a literal, face value narrative.

For example, he personifies love as a predator “like fell and cruel hounds, E’er since pursue me”, and as a disease “Methought she purg’d the air of pestilence”. The combination of these metaphors with his poetic form (whilst most of the other characters speak in prose), aid Orsino in disguising his ignorance of love to both the audience and the other characters of the play. The personification of love is used on various occasions in Twelfth Night, as well as a predator and a disease, love is personified as madness “midsummer madness” and the sea “Recieveth as the sea”.

Orsino’s self-indulgent love and fantasy like observation of love are confirmed through his arrogance. Although Orsino is an amiable character within the play, he stills holds up a stigma of arrogance, maintaining the confidence that has the ability to do anything he pleases. “To pay this debt of love but to a brother”; upon hearing that Olivia wished to be with no man for 7 years, Orsino finds optimism within the news. Instead of giving up on love that is unrequited by Olivia, he carried on his pursuit of her heart. There are no reservations, in his mind, that she will fall in love with him in the end.

In light of all this insight into Orsino’s character, it would not be an astonishment to learn that Orsino was not actually in love with Olivia but in love with the idea of being in love; and being of such high status in society, Orsino felt that he could never fall victim to defeat in anything, including love. Although Olivia does not return Orsino’s love, she is also a target of self-love. Olivia persistently talks of her beauty throughout the endurance of the play. She also holds up part of an equilateral love triangle between herself, Orsino and Viola.

She was in love with Cesario who was in love with Orsino who was in love with Olivia. The love between the three is all in conflict with one another, with other characters such as Sebastian and particularly Malvolio taking part in the angle. Olivia emphasises with Orsino’s hurt and craving for love, although her love for Cesaio is somewhat repressed. Olivia and Viola also share common ground with the love of a sibling. This form of love is the only type of love in which the person loving has nothing to gain; the love is selfless.

Olivia demonstrates this love in a very dramatic fashion as “she will not behold her face at ample view;” for 7 years, an eternity during Shakespeare’s time when life expectancy was much lower. With each day in the 7 years, she would cry “With eye-offending brine”. This vow that she made demanded much more than what she could handle. However, her vow was short lived as she revealed “the picture” to Viola soon after. This gives us the impression that Olivia’s attitude towards love should not be taken seriously.

On the other hand, Viola mourns respectfully for her brother “O my poor brother! ” and instead of dwelling over his death with the intention of living with that burden; Viola opts to move on with her life in Illyria. Viola’s love for Orsino has a direct humour correlation with Olivia’s love for Cesario. Both add the comedy aspect to the emotional situation of love. Olivia does not acknowledge the fact that Cesario is actually a woman, which provides humour in itself as the audience sees a man dressed as a woman fall in love with a man who plays a woman acting like a man.

Viola’s love for Orsino entails the same humour, but the humour intensified by the fact that Viola continuously drops hints to Orsino that Cesario is a woman, in the hope he may recognise her riddles, “I am all the daughters of my father’s house, And all the brother’s too”. The most obvious case of self-love in Twelfth Night came in the form of Malvolio, the dislikeable character of the play. Olivia describes Malvolio of being “sick of self-love”. Malvolio is a condescending, self-righteous, puritan type, character.

Malvolio is immediately mesmerised with the idea of becoming “Count Orsino” and immediately believes Olivia loves him. However, the driving force behind his feelings for Olivia are clearly for his promotion up the ranks and lust. Malvolio becomes obsessed with the idea of sex when he completely abandons his beliefs as a puritan and aims sexual connotations towards Olivia, “To bed? Ay sweetheart, and I’ll come to thee”. The whole scheme behind the gulling of Malvolio brings out humour and entertainment; whose self-love brought him down.

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Treatment Of Love In Twelfth Night. (2019, Dec 06). Retrieved from

Treatment Of Love In Twelfth Night
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