The Importance Of Madness As A Theme In Twelfth Night By William Shakespeare

997 words - 4 pages

The Importance of Madness as a Theme in Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Madness is a very important theme that is present in the whole course
of the play Twelfth Night. Firstly, we have Malvolio almost turning
mad because of the cruel joke the other servants play on him. They
make him think he is mad and they also make Olivia think he is mad
because of the funny way in which he is acting. There is also the
theme of mad love. Some examples of this are Orsino being madly in
love with Olivia, Olivia being madly in love with Cesario/Viola and
Viola falling madly in love with Orsino. This mad love makes Orsino
mad from “a savage jealousy” when he realises Olivia’s love for
Cesario/Viola. Another very important aspect of madness present in the
play is confusion and chaos which lead to madness. A very good example
of this is everyone mistaking Sebastian for Viola and viceversa which
creates very confusing situations for the characters. Also, Feste
acting as a “corrupter of words” can be quite confusing and
maddening, as Malvolio experiences in the play.

Madness can be easily appreciated in Twelfth Night thanks to the
situation Malvolio is put in. Apart from making Olivia think “he’s
much distract” and that he suffers a “very midsummer madness” the
servants also try to make him think he is mad and possessed by saying
“how hollow the fiend speaks within him” and how a “hyperbolical
fiend” vexes him making him talk “nothing but of ladies”. Malvolio
gets imprisoned as if he was a real madman of the time making him
believe he might be mad. The servants reach a point when they act so
much as if Malvolio is mad that they think they “shall make him mad
indeed”. Malvolio initially started to act strangely because he
thought Olivia wanted him to do so because she is madly in love with
him which takes us to another type of madness in the play: love
madness.

Love and loving madly are quite important in Twelfth Night. The
audience can see various examples of being madly in love throughout
the play. Orsino’s “unconditional” love for Olivia is one of them. He
claims to have his “desires like fell and cruel hounds” pursue him
ever since he first saw her. He sends Cesario to “unfold the passion
of [his] love” and “surprise her with discourse of [his] dear faith”.
However, his love turns into “a savage jealousy” and mad anger and
reaches a point where he says “I’ll sacrifice the lamb that...

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