Twelfth Night Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Discuss love in Twelfth Night.

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In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare uses the 16th century Festival of Twelfth Night to demonstrate the strange association of love to madness. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the "notoriously abused" situation Malvolio is caught in. Fabian and Toby, with Maria and Feste, aggravate Malvolio's secret and over-reaching feelings of love for Olivia and egg him on to behavior...

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westcoastteacher | Student

In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare explores the notion that love is senseless and shallow to those simply in love with being in love; he suggests that although one may feel deep emotion, a change in circumstance will inevitably alter one's affections.

In the opening scene, Duke Orsino proclaims that he instantly fell in love "when [his] eyes did see Olivia" (I.i.20), yet later on, when he realized his servant Cesario was actually a young woman named Viola who was in love with him, he offered to marry her because she had "call'd [him] master for so long" (V.i.314). Viola, disguised as a man, fell in love with Orsino within 3 days of meeting him, and Olivia herself fell instantly in love with Viola, who she believed was Orsino's messenger Cesario, even though she had vowed to live "like a cloistress" (I.i.29) for 7 years as she grieved the death of her brother. Olivia believed she had married Cesario, but when Viola revealed her true gender and Olivia discovered she had actually married Viola's twin brother Sebastian, she accepted the stranger as her true love believing it was destiny.

From beginning to end, the shifting sentiments and baseless affections which the plot is founded upon invite the question about the existence of genuine love.

ivana | Student

Love in the Twelfth Night appears in many forms.

There is for example sibling love between Olivia and Sebastian that proves to be honest and true. On the other hand, we have parody of petrarchian love in Orsino passion for Olivia whom he doesn't even now well. Orsino is a bit comic moaning all the time. Accordingly to petrarchian conventions he vividly describes his pain:

Methought she purg'd the air of pestilence!
That instant was I turn'd into a hart;
And my desires, like fell and cruel hounds,
E'er since pursue me.

Olivia's love for Orsino is of very loyal kind. she only wishes him to be happy and is even ready to sacrifice her own happiness for it. on the other hand, he falls in love with her suddenly and we cannot be sure of the depth of his emotions.

Similarly, Sebastian's love for Olivia is love at first sight. But is marrying a women you don't know really wise?

Olivia seems to have loved Viola passionately when she thought her a man. Furthermore, her love was not based only on appearance but on Viola's character. However, it is not clear whether love between Olivia and Sebastian will be of the same quality. After all Olivia only married him because she thought he was Viola ( that is a man that Viola pretends to be).

Also, we have a true love that is certainly homoerotic if not homosexual in case of Antonio who is completely attracted to Sebastian and expresses his feelings freely.

Malvilio love for Olivia is false and is based only on ambition and desire for power.

Finally, there is a love between Maria and Sir Toby that is realised in the end despite the class differences. How far is this love true it is hard to know for sure.