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Discuss the Various Forms of Love in Twelfth Night

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Discuss the Various Forms of Love in Twelfth Night Love is arguably the most popular theme for writers and readers alike throughout the entire history of literature. It provides the fundamental framework around which spawn the many other conspiracies and sub-stories that make up an entertaining read. Twelfth Night is no exception to this theory, with love being the focal point, right the way through. Every person in the play undergoes his or her own encounter with love in some form, with each character's experience differing from the next. A multitude of different manners of love are explored in this work, with all having their own consequences and provoking a variety of reactions in the reader. The play is mainly concentrated on the difference between selfish and selfless love. Probably the best example of the former is Malvolio, Olivia's respectable yet conceited steward. In his very first appearance in the play he is accused of being 'sick of self-love' after condemning Feste's attempts to cheer up Olivia. He does not enjoy light-heartedness and is constantly criticising Sir Toby's 'misdemeanours' and Feste's humour with disapproval, cold and cutting. Throughout the play his language is pompous and superior, even when addressing Olivia. He does not speak in the same manner as the other servants and his expression is more like that of an aristocrat. ...read more.


The proposed marriage between Olivia and Cesario shocks Orsino into a declaration of love. However, this time not the usual and self-indulgent idioms of his love for Olivia but a dynamic, fervent, violent desire for Cesario: 'I'll sacrifice the lamb that I do love' (V.1.119). Through Viola's disguise, she and Orsino have discussed many subjects and they have got to know one another well before acknowledging each other as lovers: 'Thou know'st no less but all: I have unclasped / To thee the book even of my secret soul' (I.4.12-13). There is, however, a lingering sense that it was the boy Cesario who Orsino fell in love with. His final words to his bride stress the homoerotic foundations of their relationship: 'Cesario, come- / For so you shall be while you are a man' (V.1.362-363). However, in this scene he shows how he has been educated out of narcissistic infatuation and into a relationship based on mutual intimacy. The former object of Orsino's affections, Olivia, is a portrayal of self-denying and self-deceiving love. A great deal is heard about Olivia before her first arrival in the play and this comprehensive introduction is wholly appropriate for a character who is the hub of so many different people's desires and perceptions: the romanticizing love of Orsino and Sir Andrew, the self serving aspirations of Malvolio, the freeloading of Sir Toby and the satiric wit of Feste. ...read more.


and thereafter she speaks her own name twice in ten lines. There is a sense, therefore, in which she is not a complete person until she is reunited with her twin. It is interesting that Orsino continues to call her Cesario to the end. Sebastian's close friend, Antonio, also demonstrates unwavering and devoted affection for Sebastian. He is the only character in the play who knows who he loves, expresses that love and acts selflessly because of it. He saves Sebastian from the wreck and risks imprisonment by following him into Illyria, he freely gives him money and he offers to take 'Sebastian's' place in the duel with Sir Andrew. His actions are all prompted by his affection, expressed in brief soliloquy: 'I do adore thee so' (II.2.35). However, despite all of Antonio's devotion, there is no conclusion for him at the end of the play. Sebastian, in the midst of all the celebrations, doesn't spare a single word for this man who has protected and aided him. I think it is fair to speculate that Antonio's love may not have been entirely platonic as his feelings carry a vehement undertone unusual between friends. Ultimately, though, Antonio is a victim at the end: Sebastian scarcely seems to register, let alone earn, the self-sacrificing devotion he receives from Antonio. A different form of love we have not yet encountered is that between Sir Toby and Maria. ...read more.

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