What is love? In William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night love is nothing more than another disguise. It is an illusion that fools everyone. Orsino, Olivia, Sebastian, and Viola do any of them find love in the end? No, they find nothing more than a disguise, an illusion of love. By analyzing each of these characters, their thoughts and feelings of, and their experiences with love throughout this play, we can determine that in the end, none of them have found true, genuine love.
Sebastian, the twin brother of Viola who was lost at sea after a shipwreck, and Lady Olivia are the first to marry, but things are not as they seem. During the weeks leading up to matrimony, Olivia fell madly in love with Cesario, who though looks and sounds just as Sebastian, is truly Viola dressed as a man. Sebastian does not realize this as he meets Olivia for the first time. He is amazed that a woman of her statue and beaut...
Transcending the Societal Role of Women: The Revolution of Natural Love in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night
Love however, is the source of much confusion and complication in another of Shakespeare’s comedies, Twelfth Night. Men and women were seen as very different from each other at the time the play was written, they were therefore also treated in very different ways. Because of this Viola conceals her identity and adopts the role of a man, in order to better her safety whilst being alone on the island, and to get a job at Count Orsino’s court. In the play Shakespeare uses the gender confusion he has created from obscuring characters identities to explore the limits of female power and control within courtship, and their dominance within society. Violas frustration surrounding her inability to express her feelings to the Count because she is a woman is an example of the limiting rules of courtship which were upheld at the time. (Aside) ‘yet, a barful strife! Whoe'er I woo, myself would be his wife.’ Here she is already expressing her anxiety and emotion at being a woman, and having to keep her emotions hidden from those around her. She longs to be able to express her love as a man could, and in her disguise as Cesario she finds an opportunity to vent her feelings for the Count, but concealed as his words and towards Olivia. Viola is unaware of how her words may sound to Olivia because she is aware of their gender boundaries however Olivia isn’t and soon falls for Cesario. Because Olivia is a Lady and head of the household, and especially how she lacks a father figure, she has a lot more freedom in courtship. Duisinberre comments on this saying, ‘...Viola and Beatrice are women set free from their fathers, and their voice is that of the adult world.’ This is seen when Olivia immediately takes the dominant role in her and Cesarios relat...
...o he loves and he says he loves a woman “of your complexion” (Shakespeare, Twelfth Night 2.4.27). Shakespeare once again uses dramatic irony to show how Cesario loves Orsino; by saying he loves a woman who looks similar to Orsino. In the last scene where the truth is revealed behind Cesario’s identity, she accepts her master’s decision saying “a thousand deaths would die” (Shakespeare, Twelfth Night 5.1.128). Viola truly loves Duke Orsino and implies here she would die a thousand deaths to make him happy. Implied truths are secrets waiting to be revealed.
Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Nights as a comedic play on how the theme of love takes an overwhelming influence over characters actions. The play’s treatment of love began with a Duke named Orsino who is madly in love with a character named Olivia but Orsino love is cannot be reciprocated because all her love remains with her dead brother. Later in the play Shakespeare treats love as something that can be a joyful delight regardless of the reality. Olivia’s handmaiden, Maria, plays a prank on Malvolio by forging Olivia’s hand writing to write Malvolio a love letter. After Malvolio reads the letter he begins to show how Malvolio is desperately in love with Olivia by following the letters ridiculous commands with delight. Then towards the end there is an encounter with Viola, Sebastian, Orsino, Olivia and Malvolio. At this point Shakespeare displays love as a joyful
Situational irony and the love triangle give big laughs to the viewers. The audience becomes engrossed as they observe Violas transformation into Cesario, the Duke’s servant. Suspense is built as Viola begins to realize that she is falling in love with Duke Orisno, but in order for her to survive; she has to keep pretending to be a man and is unable to reveal her love. The irony settles in when Orisno, asks his close servant Cesario to go to Olivia and make her understand how deeply he loves her. Shakespeare shows her helplessness in this situation because she has to help her love, try to woo someone else. The irony builds into a love triangle as Olivia begins to fall in love with Cesario as “he” loved Orisno. Olivia’s love is confirmed when she says “Yet come again, for thou perhaps mayst move that heart, which now abhors, to like his love” (III.i.153).
Orsino and Olivia were attracted to Viola because of her disguise. This disguise changes reality for the characters as well as for the audience. The audience is will to allow and accept that Olivia is attracted to Cesario as long as Olivia does not find out Cesario is actually a woman (Greenblatt). In another article by Greenblatt, Invisible Bullets, he elaborates on how Viola’s disguise helped to eliminate bias that audience might have concerning the characters. He states that cultural perceptions are easily changed or destroyed with the use of disguise (Greenblatt). The homoerotic nature would have been overlooked with the Elizabethan audience. Greenblatt states the audience is aware that Olivia and Cesario’s relationship is destined to fail. In the time period, a homosexual relationship is impossible. Once Viola’s disguise is removed, all the romantic problem would be solved. However, she is unable to do so until her ultimate goal is fulfilled. Greenblatt presumes that if her disguise is removed too soon, it would hinder the search for
Her attraction for Cesario comes from his gentlemanlike and submissive behavior that she immediately recognizes. Though Orsino is not portrayed as necessarily “masculine” throughout the play, it is the overall declared gender roles in her society that make her feel that she would be dominated in the relationship. The time period of the play also may be a factor in her decisions throughout the play. Many may argue that, after Cesario admits that she is a woman, Olivia’s feelings for Cesario diminish because she is only attracted to men. However, after finding that Cesario is, indeed, a woman, Olivia immediately refrains from showing much emotion and, therefore, never responds in a way to deny her love for Cesario. This reluctant silence is due to the fact that in her society the idea of her being in love with a woman is something that is generally left as unspoken, since it is considered unnatural. According to Bruce R. Smith, a common editor and Shakespeare lecturer, during the Renaissance period, there was no definition to identify a man or woman that was attracted to the same sex (Smith 11-12). Therefore, Olivia has no way of describing or understanding her personal situation, because this issue had never been raised in her society. This, not the lack of attraction to women, is what keeps Olivia from pursuing Viola. Certain aspects of Olivia’s emotions after the discovery of
William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, or What You Will, is a comedy that was written sometime between 1601 and 1602 and was first published in his first folio in 1623. This play explores the many weaknesses that each character possess, and shows us that through lies, deceit, and pretending to be someone who one is not, things can go extremely wrong; and it seems that William Shakespeare tries to show us that wearing a “cloak of illusion” is man’s greatest folly, but this sentiment seems ridiculous when one steps back to examine all of the weaknesses displayed by the characters.