What would be a topic to explore in two of the plays below? The Twelfth Night,  As You Like It, Othello, Much Ado About Nothing, and All's Well That Ends Well

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that one interesting topic to explore would be how Shakespeare depicts people in love.  For example, in As You Like It, All's Well That Ends Well, and Othello, Shakespeare constructs different facets of the love experience.  These facets compel people to undertake endeavors that might not necessarily be a part of their personality, in both redemptive and destructive ways.  In doing so, the three works depict multiple dimensions of love.

In As You Like It, love is shown to be restorative.  At the end of the drama, Orlando and Rosalind, Oliver and Celia, Silvius and Phoebe, and Touchstone and Audrey are all married.  This coincides with Duke Frederick recanting all that he has done wrong as rightful rule is restored.  Rosalind's closing lines speak to the power of love in the drama:

My way is to conjure you and I begin with the women. I charge you, O women, for the love you bear to men, to like as much of the play as please you; and I charge you, O men, for the love you bear to women … that between you and the women the play may please.

In this setting, love is a transcendent force that provides a sense of redemption.

In All's Well That Ends Well, love is shown to be a bit darker in terms of examining what love makes people do.  Helena resorts to deception in multiple forms in order to sustain the love she feels, while Bertram embraces the lustful side of love while in Italy.  There is restoration in the ending.  However, the purity and sense of redemption that was show in As You Like It is not as dominant in the ending of All's Well That Ends Well.  The coveting and desirous nature of love is shown to be something that can prove to be damaging.  When it appropriates love as an object or an external end, Shakespeare shows human tendencies in love to be damaging to one's self and to others. When the Countess opens the drama with "Love all, trust few," it is a reflection of the complex nature of love that is explored throughout the work. It is not the purity in love seen in As You Like It.  This provides a sense of pivot in terms of exploring how love can be destructive and possess elements that further self-destruction or debase the individual in the hopes of achieving a particular end.  

The destructive power of love is illustrated in Othello.  Love causes people to do some fairly awful things.  Iago shows how love of power and love of sheer manipulation can be destructive, repudiating social bonds of cohesion.  At the same time, Othello embodies the very best and the very worst of love.  Love is shown to be destructive in Othello's relationship with Desdemona.  However, equally compelling is how the lack of self-love in Othello causes him to embrace the very worst in human nature.  It is Shakespeare's genius to be able to display the different conditions of love in the three works.  I think that exploring how love is seen in each drama might be a potential topic of exploration.  You would have to find further textual support and specific situations.  However, there is a clear progression in terms of how love transforms the individual and those around them.  Love is a force for galvanizing individuals and strength, while simultaneously showing how individuals lose sight of themselves and others in the process.  In each drama, Shakespeare presents love as a part of modern consciousness, something that has to be understood and acknowledged as a part of being in the world.  In the varied depictions, he presents love's potential for causing human happiness as well as human misery.  Being able to examine this trajectory and this divergence might make for a very interesting topic.