Dicsuss the themes.
Love,Pain of Love,Madness,Self Deception,Illusion and Reality in the twelfth night
also the title of the play as theme and Adventure,Romantic Elements,Friendship,Day Dreaming,Music,Confused Gender Role,Mistaken Identities.
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The essential themes in this play relate to the title: the festival of Twelfth Night, otherwise known as epiphany, which is celebrated on 6th January. It represented the end of the Christmas festivities, and therefore a last bash before the dark and gloom of January begins. Thus it was a time of licensed excess - when everyone ate too much, drank too much and generally had a massive party. It was also a time of permissive sexuality, with cross-dressing and sexual liaisons.
This theme of excess is perhaps captured most clearly by Sir Toby Belch and his cronies, who stay up late at night and party, even though it brings them into conflict with Malvolio, who could be said to represent the forces of sobriety and Puritanism in the play. However, in the play, Malvolio gets his come-uppance, as Sir Toby and Maria play on his self-importance to make him engage in ridiculous actions.
Another key theme is that of (of course) love. But interestingly, throughout the play, love is referred to as a sickness, a disease and a plague. Love is linked closely with insanity and madness, that explains the sudden falling in love by lots of characters (Sebastian for Olivia, Olivia for Caesario, etc). Love is seen as an irrational force that causes us to make fools of ourselves (e.g. Malvolio).
It is noteworthy that this play ends with a return to normality represented by the marriages of the various parties - Twelfth Night and the accompanying madness is over, and normality prevails.
Oh dear! how can all these issues be dicussed within the ambit of a single answer? However, let me try at least some of them:
1. Theme of Love: Twelfth Night is a Romantic comedy of love in which we find Orsino's modish & sentimental love for Olivia, long pursued and never returned; Viola's love for Orsino is very genuine and modest love silently nurtured by Viola in the guise of Cesario; Olivia falls in love with Cesario at the first sight and gets engaged with Sebastian because of confusion born of mistaken identity. Olivia's steward, Malvolio is seduced by Maria into an illusory love with the Countess.
2. Pain of Love: Viola loves Orsino, but disguised as Cesario, she suffers the pain and pangs of love. Olivia too feels the pangs of love because her passion for Cesario is never going to be fulfilled.
3. Madness: While Orsino's prolonged infatuation for Olivia has an element of absurd sentimentality in it, Olivia's steward Malvolio is gulled by Maria and other mischief-makers into a make-believe world of love's fancies, and finally imprisoned in a dark chamber as a mad man whom the clown teases in the guise of the curate, Sir Topas.
4. Self-deception: Duke Orsino's love-lorn state is a glaring example of self-deception. He seems to be more in love with the idea of love, and prefers to remain sentimentally engaged in music, hunting, lamenting and idling. Malvolio, believing Maria's letter to be true, deceives himself to have been raised to the position of the Count. His confinement in the dark chamber symbolically testifies to his lack of self-knowledge.
5. Title: Shakespeare wrote the play on the occasion of the twelfth night, and the play has a reference to 'cakes and ale' typical of the occasion. Romance and love, Feste's songs, fun and humour, disguise & mistaken identity allude to an atmosphere of festivity.
Hope this brief note shall be of some use.
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