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In Twelfth Night, what is the nature of Antonio's love towards Sebastian?

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anastana | Salutatorian

Posted February 26, 2013 at 7:16 PM via web

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In Twelfth Night, what is the nature of Antonio's love towards Sebastian?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 27, 2013 at 1:22 AM (Answer #1)

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A passive character, whose appearance in the play is minimal, Sebastian is a young man who is easily affected by others. He has been rescued by Antonio, a sea captain, when he comes ashore after being shipwrecked. After he recovers his strength, Sebastian wishes to take his leave of Antonio because he worries that his bad fortune will affect the kind captain.  But, before he departs, he tells Antonio that he has a twin sister who drowned, and he says that he is headed to Duke Orsino's court.  Then, although Antonio has had a battle at sea with ships of the Count and is wanted in Illyria for piracy and at first bids the youth good-bye, the sea captain, who feels so fatherly toward the young Sebastian, decides to accompany him. He tells Sebastian that the danger will be a challenge, anyway:

The gentleness of all the gods go with thee!
I have many enemies in Orsino's court,
Else would I very shortly see thee there.
But, come what may, I do adore thee so,
That danger shall seem sport, and I will go. (2.1.38-42)

It also seems that Antonio almost wants to relive his youth in a different way through Sebastian by becoming his benefactor. For, in Act III, when they arrive at Illyria, he gladly gives Sebastian a purseful of money so he can purchase souvenirs. Envisioning Sebastian as someone to be cared for, Antonio alludes to the youth as "a young gentleman" as well as a "boy" in Scenes 4 and 5 respectively. 

It should be noted that during the Renaissance, as in other periods such as the Romantic Era, friendships between men were highly revered; in fact, male friendship was revered as a more worthy love than erotic love between men and women.  Friendships prevail throughout Shakespeare's play as they contribute to one of his themes.

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