Twelfth Night Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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How does Shakespeare portray love in Twelfth Night?  

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Despite ending in three marriages, love seems to be portrayed more as a sickness or even a kind of madness in Twelfth Night rather than as a lasting source of joy and companionship.

Notice the amount of unrequited affections among the characters. Orsino wants Olivia, while Olivia pines for Cesario. Both Orsino and Olivia are not necessarily in love, but infatuated with the idea of the object of their affections. This latter idea is emphasized in Olivia's case, since Cesario is not even a real person, but the alter ego of Viola.

Forbidden love, particularly love with homoerotic overtones, makes its way into the play as well. The sailor Antonio's passion for Sebastian is often interpreted as romantic in nature, and it too is unrequited, as well as forbidden by the socio-religious context of the setting. Viola longs for Orsino, who can never be hers as long as she is disguised as his male servant. Her speech about Cesario's "sister" and her unrequited love sums up the pain of such longing:

She never...

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