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In the play "Twelfth Night," Shakespeare explores and illustrates the emotion of love with precise detail. According to "Webster's New World Dictionary," love is defined as "a strong affection or liking for someone." Throughout the play Shakespeare examines three different types of love: true love, self love and friendship.
"Twelfth Night" consists of many love triangles, however many of the characters who are tangled up in the web of love are blind to see that their emotions and feelings toward other characters are untrue. They are being deceived by themselves and/or the others around them. There are certain instances in the play where the emotion of love is true, and the two people involved feel very strongly toward one another. Viola's love for Orsino is a great example of true love. Although she is pretending to be a man and is virtually unknown in Illyria, she hopes to win the Duke's heart. In act 1, scene 4, Viola let's out her true feelings for Cesario, "yet a barful strife! Whoe'er I woo, myself would be his wife (1)." That statement becomes true when Viola reveals her true identity. Viola and Orsino had a very good friendship, and making the switch to husband and wife was easy. Viola was caught up in another true love scenario, only this time she was on the receiving end, and things didn't work out so smoothly. During her attempts to court Olivia for Orsino, Olivia grew to love Cesario. Viola was now caught in a terrible situation and there was only one way out, but that would jeopardize her chances with Orsino. It's amazing that Olivia could fall for a woman dressed as a man, but because Viola knew what women like to hear, her words won Olivia's heart. The next case of true love is on a less intimate and romantic scale, and more family oriented. Viola and Sebastian's love for one another is a bond felt by all siblings. Through their times of sorrow and mourning for each of their apparent deaths they still loved each other. They believed deep down that maybe someway or by some miracle that each of them was still alive and well.
Many people, even in today's society, love themselves more then anything else. "Twelfth Night" addresses the issue of self love and how it affects peoples lives.
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Friendship is the third type of love expressed in "Twelfth Night." The biggest and closest friendship would have to be between Orsino and Cesario. They barely knew each other at first, and before long Orsino was telling Cesario his inner love for Olivia. He even had Cesario running his love messages to Olivia. The second friendship between Viola and the Sea Captain was not mentioned a lot, but they had a very deep bond between one another. They survived the shipwreck together and the Sea Captain promised to keep Viola's idea about pretending to be a man a secret. If he had opened his mouth the entire play would have changed. The third friendship, and definitely the strangest, is between Sir Toby and Sir Andrew Aguecheek. They are close friends but sometimes Sir Toby doesn't show it. He sets Sir Andrew up, and likes to get him into trouble. An example is persuading Sir Andrew to challenge Cesario to a dual, even though he is not a great swordsman and is unaware of Cesario's ability. On the other hand, Sir Andrew appreciates Sir Toby's company because he always lifts his spirits and makes him feel like a true knight.
Love is a universal and timeless theme in literature. Love plays a major role in "Twelfth Night," and Shakespeare addresses true love, self love, and friendship in a very compelling and interesting way. "Twelfth Night" helps the reader form their own definition of love, and Shakespeare does a great job of explaining a always difficult topic.
Work Cited and Consulted:
David, R. W., ed. The Arden Shakespeare: Love's Labour's Lost. London: Methuen, 1951.
Shakespeare, William. The Norton Shakespeare. Edited Stephen Greenblatt et al. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1997.