Twelfth Night, Or What You Will Essay examples

In Twelfth Night, or What You Will, Shakespeare uses the two households of Olivia and Count Orsino to create two distinct worlds. Shakespeare openly invites a comparison between Olivia and Orsino in making the two so alike. Both are sole rulers of their households, and both in love with a lost cause. However, the two households are governed by two different sets of rules. In Olivia’s court, the diverting and fantastical things overshadow reality, whereas Orsino’s court exists in a down-to-earth universe that follows stricter rules, making happy endings harder to achieve.

The Countess Olivia’s world is fantasy masquerading as reality. It is a world where Olivia’s random love is validated and whimsy has license to roam free. In the court of the Countess, Olivia, Maria, and Viola take initiative in their own relationships, there are pranks, and laughter that need not ever stop. Feste, the joker, is not merely employed often by Olivia; he is treated as a friend and confidant. Any drastic reveals, hilarious scenes, or insane misunderstandings set to happen in this play take place in her household. Though Olivia’s house is the place for the humorous and wild occurrences of the play to take place, and though the lady of the house who had previously sworn off marriage is immediately ready to tie herself to young Cesario, Olivia remains a sensible woman. If that were not so, “She could not sway her house, command her followers, / Take and give back affairs and their dispatch/ With such a smooth, discreet, and stable bearing” as she does (TN, IV, iii, 17-19). Nevertheless, if impossible things are going to happen, they will happen with or near her. Sword fights, passionate confessions of love, vying suitors, elaborate pranks, and even Vio…

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…s to the nearly magical world Olivia lives in, when anything is possible, love travels on a whim, and past grievances, like Feste’s long absence, are often forgotten. Orsino mimics the daylight, where the lovers in MND actually live. Yet, Shakespeare seems to warn against thinking that fiction is the lesser of the two evils. Olivia’s world, through the lens of reality, is disordered, dangerous, and maddening, similar to the chaotic realm of the Fae folk. Nevertheless, Orsino and Viola could have used just a bit of Olivia’s magic to ease their situations. In the end, both households have negatives to balance their positives. The lesson is for fantasy and reality to be in dialogue with each other: for plays to pull from reality to keep balance and order, and for the audience in reality to take the lessons fantasy offers, and apply them to make their lives better.

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