The Nature Of Love In "Twelfth Night" A Review And Summary Of Two Critical Essays

1281 words - 5 pages

"Twelfth Night" is one of Shakespeare's most famous comedies. The story is one filled with life, death, mourning, mistaken identity, character parallels, and love. All of these aspects are important, and are all interconnected. It is impossible to speak of one without the other, so with reference to the love in this text, other themes will be discussed as well.


Though both of the articles were on the topic of love, they related to very different aspects of the feeling. The first concerned itself with the nature of the love shared by the personalities in the play, while the second spoke of the motivation and reasoning behind the love of the characters.


The idea that love in the play is not truly love, but desire and lust for power is one of the ideas discussed. The other article discusses the implications of mortality on the motivation of the characters to live life and love.

The first article expresses the view that the "love" that Shakespeare writes about in Twelfth Night refers to power and desire and not truly sentiment. Love is traditionally impossible to explain. The lack of clarity that comes with the word is stripped however when it is associated with the rise over social, political, and economical relations, as desire can provoke.


The article states that the desire in the play is related in a large part to service. Beyond the loyal bond that the servant has to the master, there is a feeling of love demonstrated by many of the characters in this play. Viola is servant to Orsino, Olivia has an erotic desire for Cesario, Orsino has a courtly infatuation for Olivia, Antonio has a homoerotic affection for Sebastian, and Sir Toby marries Olivia's servant Maria. The class distinctions in the house "inflame passionate rivalry" and facilitate the erotic dimensions of the relationships. (Schalkwyk 2005)


These same class issues condition the possibility and impossibility in the love of the characters. The role of the servants requires them to suppress any urges or subjectivity they may have towards their master. They cannot act as normally desiring people could, in that they are unable to express their passion.


It is discussed however that these desires may be facilitated more easily by the servant-master relationship. Viola channels her erotic desires for Orsino into selfless servitude and voices her willingness to sacrifice her life to appease the jealousy of her master. Service can create the conditions for the development of the personal affection past the loyal bond of duty, to the "mutual render only for thee"(TN: II,1,524). The relationship that Cesario develops as servant to Orsino would be impossible if he were a woman. It is a relationship built on the trust and commitment the servant shows as a result of Viola's love. Olivia sees this devotion in Cesario and this is the root of her erotic desire for him.


In a large part this article works to disprove that this play...

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