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The Bittersweet Comedy Of Twelfth Night

1483 words - 6 pages

The Bittersweet Comedy of Twelfth Night

Twelfth night is a name commonly given to the Christian feast of the
Epiphany which is celebrated on the 6th of January. On this day we
remember the coming of the Magi and the taking down of decorations
which is a sad occasion for many but also a happy occasion as new
times are beginning.

Twelfth Night is a romantic comedy, and romantic love is the play’s
main focus. Despite the fact that the play offers a happy ending, in
which the various lovers find one another and achieve wedded bliss,
Shakespeare shows that love can cause pain. Many of the characters
seem to view love as a kind of curse, a feeling that attacks its
victims suddenly and disruptively. Various characters claim to suffer
painfully from being in love, or, rather, from the pangs of unrequited
love. At one point, Orsino depicts love dolefully as an “appetite”
that he wants to satisfy and cannot at another point, he calls his
desires “fell and cruel hounds” Olivia more bluntly describes love as
a “plague” from which she suffers terribly. These metaphors contain an
element of violence. Even the less melodramatic Viola sighs unhappily
that “My state is desperate for my master’s love” This desperation has
the potential to result in violence—as in Act V, scene i, when Orsino
threatens to kill Cesario because he thinks that -Cesario has forsaken
him to become Olivia’s lover. Some people achieve romantic happiness,
while others do not. At the end of the play, as the happy lovers
rejoice, both Malvolio and Antonio are prevented from having the
objects of their desire. Malvolio, who has pursued Olivia, must
ultimately face the realisation that he is a fool, socially unworthy
of his noble mistress. Antonio is in a more difficult situation, as
social norms do not allow for the gratification of his apparently
sexual attraction to Sebastian. Love, thus, cannot conquer all
obstacles, and those whose desires go unfulfilled remain no less in
love but feel the sting of its absence all the more severely.

Feste’s first song in Act II, scene iii, firstly sums up the love
triangle between Orsino, Olivia and Viola. He sings, "O mistress mine,
where are you roaming?" This line shows that the fool knows the truth:
that Orsino, Olivia and Viola are all searching for their true love.
In the second verse, Feste explains more of a philosophy for life. The
lines "Present mirth hath present laughter. What's to come is still
unsure," can be interpreted as the modern saying of ‘Live for today’
and not delay their lovemaking; the future is always uncertain and
youth does not last. These words show Feste's knowledge of their
hesitance toward love and also represent Toby's logic toward life.
Later, at Orsino's request, Feste sings a sombre tune about a boy who
dies for love. This link between love and death...

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