Discuss Twelfth Night as a satire of the idea of love at first sight.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Satire is a literary form in which humor and wit are employed to bring about a reaction from the audience that inspires them to laugh at themselves and at their own hypocritical or contradictory behaviors, beliefs, attitudes etc, which they avow lip service to but which they in actual fact violate, ignore, disregard, etc. The platform, so to speak, of satire is a societal agreement or code to which all society members agree and presumably to uphold. A satire points out that while they are presuming to uphold the code or agreement, society in fact does not uphold it.

If elements satirizing love at first sight are to be recognized in Twelfth Night, it would have to be presupposed that although the social code is to love and marry from within reason and stable emotion, a large segment of society habitually disregards this code and manifests the contradictory behavior of falling in love impulsively on the emotion and impression of an instant. Viola, Olivia, Sebastian and Orsino would be the prime characters who provide humorous, witty situations that depict the foolhardiness of falling in love with a person at first sight. For example, Viola falls in love with Orsino at first sight even though he proves himself to be arrogant, foolish, demanding and emotionally volatile. Later, after having a love sickness for Olivia for whom he pines, Orsino falls instantly in love with Viola after it is discovered that Olivia has married Sebastian while believing him to be Viola in disguise.