Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Twelfth night is a comedy play written by William Shakespeare. The
entire play revolves around love and ideas of love. The very first
line of the play tells us that love will be the main feature: ‘If
music be the food of love, play on’. Shakespeare delves deeply into
the different facets of love, and explores how each facet is totally
different from each other although they all revolve around the same
thing: Love. Many facets of love are explored through respective
characters in the play, which combine feelings and emotion to bring
the idea of love to life.
Shakespeare, a contemporary of Elizabeth I, draws profoundly upon the
Elizabethan conventions of love. His genius lay in being able to mock
the conventions and to suggest that love could be a partnership of
equals. Love was idealised to be the greatest thing on earth in the 16th
Century. In this period, rich and powerful families only married into
other wealthy and influential families. They cared not for their
child’s happiness, only that of their own security in social position.
Marriages were arranged by the parents for the children, and did
nothing for the children but bring grief and despair as they were
forced to marry a complete stranger just so the parents could be
content that they had either extended or maintained their wealth,
status and power. The consequence of this unjust situation was often
the outcome of two beliefs, that made plots for plays, stories and
poems of the era of Twelfth night.
The first of these is known as ‘Courtly love’. Women were worshipped
from afar and men longed to be with these women with a burning desire.
They were ‘put on a pedestal’ and adored from distance as unattainable
goddesses. Only by long devotion, many trials and much suffering,
could a man win his ideal women, the ‘fair cruel main’ of literature.
This love is obviously sexless and idealised. In veracity, it quite
often occurred that men were in love with the idea of being in love,
instead of actually loving someone. These men would surround
themselves with the trappings of love; flowers, music, symbols of love
(hearts) and much more. This would make them believe that they were in
love when actually they just loved the idea of it. One such a man is
Orsino in the play Twelfth Night.
The second type of love is called ‘Romantic love’. This is where
someone surrounds themselves with the trappings of love. They
constantly sigh and dream of their loved one, with all the trappings
encouraging the longing for their love. This involved the notion of
‘love at first sight’, and would consume someone’s life with love and
ideas of romance. This love was also idealised and sexless but meeting
did happen, and often the result was marriage for life.
When these two forms of love combined, it...