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Discuss the ways in which Shakespeare explores the theme of love throughout 'Twelfth Night'.

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Priya Pillai Discuss the ways in which Shakespeare explores the theme of love throughout 'Twelfth Night' In the play 'Twelfth Night' Shakespeare explores and illustrates the emotion of love with precise detail. Throughout the play Shakespeare examines three different types of love, which are, true love, self-love and platonic love. 'Twelfth Night' is a romantic comedy, and romantic love is the play's main theme. In order to comply with the comical genre, Shakespeare uses dramatic irony to entertain the audience. The play 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 towards other characters are untrue. They are consequently deceiving themselves and others around them. Count Orsino opens the play with a speech beginning; 'If music be the food of love, play on, Give me excess of it, that surfeiting, That appetite may sicken, and so die.' The first part of his speech introduces the theme of love and is a metaphorical relation of music and love; Orsino relates music to love and over indulgence in music to over-eating, wishing that listening to too much music would kill his desire for love. ...read more.


Her intentions of grieving are unrealistic and she instantly faces difficulties, as her mental emotions don't allow her to carry out the physical act of mourning. Her impulses also attract her to Cesario, who 'pity's' her. Her passionate desperation causes her to consider Cesario's pity as a 'degree to love.' The audience is aware of the dramatic irony of the situation. Olivia's is prepared to marry below her social status, and displays the zealous attitude she has. Viola's love however is true, selfless and deep. She displays honesty, loyalty and integrity towards Orsino even though she is aware that he has feelings for Olivia. 'Make me a willow cabin at your gate And call upon my soul within the house, Write loyal cantons of contemned love And sing them loud even in the dead of night.' Even when realising Olivia is in love with Cesario she remains empathetic towards her rather than consideration for her own position. 'Poor lady, she were better love a dream' Viola's faithfulness towards Orsino is constant throughout. She carries out the duties of charming Olivia for him; ironically it is Cesario Olivia falls for instead. Her loyalty displays the unconditional love she has for Orsino. ...read more.


As she is the character that actually feels unconditional love, it could be Shakespeare's attempt to show that it does have its rewards. She is also the character with the most positive outlook and has faith in the power of love. She pleads 'O time, thou must untangle this, not I, it is too hard a knot for me t'untie.' This in a way shows her belief in time and in good. Viola is aware that her lies has created a web of lies and should be resolved. Her prediction proved accurate, as all the main characters find love. In other aspects Shakespeare knows that Orsino and Olivia shouldn't be punished for their perspective on love but shows that they won't achieve what they always set out to. Therefore, Orsino wouldn't be with Olivia neither would Olivia have Cesario. The play's characters also explore a tabooed subject within society. Although Shakespeare hasn't written in a profoundly obvious manner, it does appear to the audience that there is an underlying theme of homosexuality. This is displayed in the relationship between characters of the same gender. Orsino's fondness towards Cesario does display platonic love, which later evolves into marriage with Cesario's alter ego Viola. The romantic attraction that Olivia feels towards Cesario also emphasises the idea of homosexuality, as Cesario is simply a disguise for Viola, who too is a woman. ...read more.

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