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How does Shakespeare explore the theme of love in Twelfth Night(TM)?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare explore the theme of love in 'Twelfth Night'? Despite the genre of the play, and the supposedly happy ending, Shakespeare is quite ambiguous with his thoughts on the subjects of love and infatuation. Love is generally represented as something that is irresistible, spontaneous and overpowering. It is portrayed as being dangerous and something that can destroy a person, and is very difficult to get rid of. Shakespeare compares it to disease and suffering, and shows that it can cause pain. Orsino describes love dolefully as an 'appetite' that he needs to satisfy, but is unable to and Olivia more bluntly describes it as a 'plague'. Even Viola who is less melodramatic sighs that 'My state is desperate for my master's love'. Because those who suffer from it are consumed by it and become desperate, they resort to violence to secure the love of another. For example, Sir Andrew challenges Viola to fight to the death for Olivia's hand, and Orsino threatens to kill Viola, the subject of Olivia's affections, in order to keep her for himself, 'But this your minion, whom I know you love, And whom, by heaven I swear, I tender dearly, Him will I tear out of that cruel eye, Where he sits crowned in his master's spite.' ...read more.

Middle

Shakespeare shows us that romantic love is important as it incorporates the main constitution of love and attraction. Shakespeare uses the characters of Antonio and Sebastian, and Orsino and Cesario to depict platonic love. Platonic love is very similar to family love, except the characters are not related. This means that they are extremely close out of choice, and we are shown this through their friendship. Platonic love between two characters is when they have a very close affectionate relationship, but are not attracted to each other, 'For his love did I expose myself, pure for his love, into the danger of this adverse town'. Different directors have interpreted this love differently and demonstrate this through Sebastian and Antonio's relationship. In some productions they are simply very close friends, however in others, Antonio's feelings for Sebastian are much stronger. In one particular production, that I have seen, which was directed by Neil Bartlett, the relationship between these two characters was clearly shown to be more than that of two close friends. This particular director also emphasised the way that an Elizabethan audience would have viewed the play, by exaggerating the cross-dressing. He had many of the male parts being performed by female actors, and many of the female parts being played by male actors. ...read more.

Conclusion

This allows us to judge them and make informed decisions throughout the play at times when we have more information than the character. Dramatic irony can also make a situation humorous, for example when Olivia is chasing after Cesario, is constantly being rejected, but is persistent none the less, 'Viola : I pity you, Olivia: That's a degree to love'; we know that Cesario is really Viola and that Olivia should just give up. Another technique that Shakespeare uses is word play. He takes everyday words, and changes them so that they refer to love as well as the intended meaning. For example, in the first scene, Curio asks Orsino if he will hunt 'the hart'. Curio meant a male deer, but we interpret it to mean a heart. Orsino then extends this and compares himself to the hart. We judge the characters by the type of language that they use. Certain characters such as Orsino and Olivia speak in iambic pentameter, or blank verse; this is because they are important characters and we assume that what they have to say is more significant than the less important characters such as Sir Andrew and Sir Toby. Shakespeare uses several different methods to explore the theme of love in 'Twelfth Night' but the most important one is through his characters. He turns each idea into a character and the drama and relationships between them help us to understand his thoughts. ?? ?? ?? ?? Meghan Roberts ...read more.

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