Music in Twelfth Night Essay

Music in Twelfth Night Essay

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Critics call Twelfth Night one of William Shakespeare’s most poetic and musical plays. Shakespeare writes poetic lines for the major characters, Viola, Orsino, and Olivia, and gives the Fool, and other minor characters, songs to sing throughout the play. The particularly romantic lines of the play make it seem as if the characters are professional poets themselves. Shakespeare also uses the music and poetry in Twelfth Night to foreshadow what is going to happen for the rest of the performance and to reveal major themes in the play. Music and poetry become major characters in the play themselves.
The opening soliloquy of Act I Scene I, given by Duke Orsino, is another perfect example of Shakespeare using music to show the upcoming storyline of the play. At first, Orsino is using music as a metaphor that feeds the appetite of love. He speaks for a minute about his love for the music playing, and then changes abruptly by saying, “Enough; no more” (7). Already Shakespeare is foreshadowing Orsino’s fickleness when it comes to music which in turn stands for love. Of course, further into the play, it is shown that Orsino truly is fickle when it comes to love. As soon as he finds out that Cesario is in fact the woman Viola, he instantly forgets all the passion he had for Olivia and marries Viola.
Another part of Orsino’s opening speech that shows a piece of the future plot is the part where he talks about love being “receiveth as the sea” (11). This can be taken to show that love will come by the sea. In the very next scene, Viola appears in Illyria from a shipwreck. Sebastian, although Shakespeare does not say so at the time, also comes onto the scene because of the same shipwreck. Shakespeare forecasts, very subtly, that these are t...


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...one of the antics at the start play to woo Olivia succeed for Orsino and Viola’s initial plan in the beginning does not blossom. This line concludes the part of Feste’s song in which he is giving a synopsis of the play. The last two stanzas are addressed to the audience and Feste thanks them.
Shakespeare craftily uses music and poetry to guide the audience through the play and give them an inkling of what is to come, if the audience chooses to play close attention. However, it is not always clear what the song means and, depending on the character delivering the song or poem, comes off as more comedic than meaningful to the performance. By the end of the play, the audience has accepted that music and poetry are just as much themes in the play as disguise and love, but are blended so painstakingly that neither poetry or love overshadow anything in the performance.

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