The Thematic Application Of Music In "Twelfth Night"

1051 words - 4 pages

"If music be the food of love, play on…" With these words as the play's beginning, it comes as no surprise that the correlation between love and music turns out to be a significant motif of Twelfth Night, exploited often by Shakespeare and on several occasions. His incorporation of song and instrumentation in the midst of prose emphasizes the atmosphere of melancholy and comedy that the dialogue creates, playing off of the action and themes of the play. This thought certainly holds true for the music made by the clown Feste in Act II, scene IV. His short rhyme tells the painful story of the suffering that accompanies unrequited love, which has obvious ties to the love triangle found between Orsino, Viola and Olivia. Howevera closer analysis of this song may be used to uncover the further themes that it addresses - those of disguise and loss. Shakespeare makes these themes more clear with his use of literary devices, such as metaphor, oxymoron, and symbolism in the song. It is the employment of these rhetorical figures within the song paired with its contrast between love and death that perpetuate the central theme of unrequited love based on disguise.From unrequited love springs death. This overly dramatic statement serves as the story line of Feste's song, mirroring much of the story of Twelfth Night where three characters become the victims of an unreturned love. The dramatic and extreme metaphor of death that is employed, however, is most closely related to the similarly intense and exaggerated passion of Orsino. His flowery words and lamentations concerning his emotions, such as when he muses on the "spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou" (I.i.9), appear not to be directed at Olivia but rather love itself, revealing his nature as a hopeless romantic who is in love with love. The first lines of the Clown's song, "Come away, come away death, and in sad cypress let me be laid" (II.iv.51-52), also focus primarily on the affliction of love rather than the lover herself and provide the melancholic tone and poetic diction that would be expected to spring directly from Orsino's mouth. This similarity to his own thoughts also explains why he takes such a strong liking to this song and requests its replaying to "relieve [his] passion" earlier in the scene. The song's style serves as a mirror of Orsino's words from the beginning of the play; this parallelism then allows for an interesting criticism to be made about Orsino's character and his notion of true love.Orsino, without a doubt, considers himself to be honestly in love: "For such as I am, all true lovers are, unstaid and skittish in all motions else, save in the constant image of the creature that is belov'd" (II.iv.17-20). Yet, from the beginning of the play, the meaning and authenticity of Orsino's love for Olivia is left uncertain. The song offers insight on this issue in lines 64-66 with its hope that no other lover may find the same fate of unrequited love: "Lay me, O, where...

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