Twelfth Night: Shakespearean Passions Or Life Story
Shakespeare is undoubtedly one of the greatest playwrights in history and one of the most commonly studied figures in schools’ English literature curriculums all around the world. Quotes such as ” To be or not to be” from Hamlet and “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em” from Twelfth Night can easily be recognised by students. Yet, certainly, there have been numerous debates and conflicting ideas brought up regarding the statement “Should studying Shakespeare be compulsory in school?” Admittedly, his ability to express certain feelings and emotions through intriguing word choices and techniques and his ability to captivate the audience with the story cannot be denied. However, regardless of the many advocates of incorporating Shakespeare mandatorily in school curriculums, there are numerous reasons as to why Shakespeare should not be a compulsory study in schools.
To begin with, despite the fact that most people commend Shakespeare for his original stories, many of Shakespeare’s plays are by no means original pieces of work. His historical plays are merely retellings of historical events and even several of his most popular pieces of non-historical work are rewritten versions of the works of other authors who came before him. For example, Hamlet, one of Shakespeare’s most popular and praised plays, is based on a story from a book called Gesta Danorum that tells the stories of Danish kings. This was written by a Danish historian and author, Saxo Grammaticus, in the late 12th century, almost 500 years prior to the writing of Hamlet. The original story is based around the story of Amleth who kills his uncle, Fengo, who had murdered his own brother, Horwendil, the king of Norway, out of jealousy in order to marry Horwendil’s wife and Amleth’s mother, Gerutha. This story has an unquestionable similarity to the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, with even the name Hamlet being an anagram of Amleth. Despite Shakespeare’s stories being unoriginal, he is credited for being one of the most influential figures of English literature while many other great writers who are equally as, or even more, deserving of Shakespeare’s recognition go unnoticed.
Moreover, people may argue that teaching students Shakespeare can spread the appreciation of the plays to people all around the world, thereby increasing the value of his plays. However, teaching Shakespeare in schools can actually lower the value of his works mainly by defeating the purpose of those plays. Shakespeare enjoyed going to the theatre and was even a well-established actor himself. After being influenced by great authors who came before him, Shakespeare began writing his plays in 1590 and saw the potential to become a great playwright. Now, his plays are being analysed by reluctant, desk-bound students, which is the exact antithesis of the purpose of the plays, which is to entertain the audience in the theatre. Although the plays were intended to be performed in front of an audience in a theatre, nowadays, there are many students who are forced to appreciate the works of Shakespeare without ever getting a chance to actually watch the plays be performed. Furthermore, his comedic plays were meant for the audience to respond with instantaneous, involuntary reactions, but the same effects cannot be achieved through trying to carefully pick apart and understand the humour in the plays.
Many of Shakespeare’s plays include morals and lessons passed down from his time that people from today can learn from. In many of his plays, people try to point out important morals from the stories, but some of his plays have storylines include aspects and themes that promote topics which may have been appropriate during Shakespeare’s time but are generally frowned upon today. In the play, The Taming of the Shrew, for instance, there is an overall theme of misogyny present throughout the entire play. Even the title of the play suggests this theme because the shrew refers to a character, Katherine, who is being “tamed,” a word commonly used to refer to an animal, in this case, the shrew, thus creating a sense that Katherine is an animal and not a person. In the play, Katherine is being “tamed” by a male character Petruchio who wishes for Katharine to be his partner. Petruchio successfully tames her and starves, humiliates, and deprives her of sleep in order to do so. In the end, Katherine is presumably “tamed” when she begins acting like Petruchio’s personal marionette and laughs when Petruchio wants her to and carry out other actions as Petruchio desires. Themes such as this are very evident throughout many of Shakespeare’s plays and can be unwanted and somewhat uncomfortable for students to learn about in school as well.
In addition, many students are simply unwilling to learn about Shakespeare’s plays. His plays are packed with challenging, antiquated vocabulary and stories that can oftentimes be confusing especially to young readers or second-language learners. Besides, even the audience in theatres at Shakespeare’s time did not fully understand the meaning of every single word, but they still managed to enjoy the plays through physical interpretations, which cannot be done inside the classroom, with a written script and a pen. Many students feel obligated to understand every word and every aspect of Shakespeare’s plays because his plays are such big parts of curriculums all over the world and people seem to think that it is somewhat unfashionable to think unfavourably of Shakespeare. By studying a topic that students are reluctant about, the students can lose motivation to learn altogether. Scientific studies show that some of the main causes of decreased motivation among students are lack of interest, fear of failure, and stress and overwhelm, and these signs can be noticeable in many students who are forced to study Shakespeare. Because of the high expectations regarding the knowledge of Shakespeare’s works, the students feel overwhelmed by their goal to achieve this knowledge and they believe that if they fail to do so, they will be a disappointment, further increasing the reluctance to learn.
In conclusion, schools should not make studying Shakespeare mandatory for students. Overall, William Shakespeare is quite overrated and over time, his reputation has become overly exaggerated by the majority of the people who disregard crucial flaws such as unoriginal stories to undesirable themes in the plays. In addition to those flaws, many people who are trying to maintain and spread the values of Shakespeare’s plays are doing more harm to his appreciation than they realise. Schools and a big portion of our society tend to treat Shakespeare as if he is the greatest writer of all time that everyone should know about and appreciate but considering the points mentioned above, there is an obvious need for a re-evaluation on that view.
The Twelfth Night and Gender
Gender is a major theme of Twelfth Night. Despite a woman being the ruler of England at this time, men were seen as the dominant and more powerful gender. Until a women got married and became the ‘property’ of her husband, she belonged to her father, or, if her father had passed, her brother. The Elizabethan life for men was one of power, they had all the authority and were seen as strong, more emotionally sturdy and superior to women.
In Shakespeare Twelfth Night, we seen Duke Orsino, a male,tend to perform aspects of what would be considered a women’s gender role. The first gender bending performance we see is Orsino’s moodiness. In the opening scene of the play Orsino commands his musicians to play because the music is feeding his desires, but, he never lets the them finish as he interrupts stating it no longer sounds as sweet as it once did.
If music be the food of love, play on.
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken and so die.
That strain again! It had a dying fall.
O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odor. Enough; no more.
Tis not so sweet now as it was before.
While he is seen as a powerful man, here we see him being moody and all over the place emotionally which are thought to me qualities of a women. We also see Duke Orsino like this later in the play when the fool, Feste, says Orsino’s ‘mind is very opal’. An opal gemstone shimmers and shifts colors constantly. Feste is saying that Orsino is temperamental, emotionally unstable and moody. He is a fool for love, constantly changing the way he feels. Despite the fact that he holds many characteristics of a man such as being bold, assertive, having a giant ego and confidence, throughout the play, we see him perform feminine gender role traits, challenging the construction of traditional gender roles during this time period.
The way women preformed their roles and the feminine gender traits they carried were much different than men. Women were inferior to men and raised to do as a man says. They were thought of as weak, always needing protection, emotionally unstable and as property. They would be allowed to marry by the age of 12, sometimes earlier depending on the social status and wealth of their family. They were voiceless, and deprived of many rights. Women were also thought to me much more emotionally and expressive of their feelings compared to men. While Viola/Cesario breaks this gender construction, we see her conform to them as well.
The relationship between gender and performance is particularly complex in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night because of Viola, who is also Cesario. Her gender fluidity is an essential part of the play and demonstrates how gender is not just about physical differences but can be performed and impersonated. She dresses in men’s clothing, changes her tone of voice and is referred to as Cesario in order to perform as a man and because of this, her status becomes equal to that of a man. She has full control over her life, her choices, and duties, which wasn’t a luxury women got during this era. Though her performance of a man fools many, there are moments throughout the play where she adheres to the gender construction of a woman. There are many instances in which characters refer to Cesario as an effeminate man despite that fact that she was making conscious efforts to act and appear more manly. Also, in one of Viola’s speeches, she indirectly confesses her love for Orsino. Sooth, but you must.
Say that some lady, as perhaps there is, Hath for your love as great a pang of heart As you have for Olivia. You cannot love her; You tell her so; Must she not then be answered?
In doing this, she challenges the male gender stereotype about keeping their emotions hidden and to themselves. It can be argued that the gender roles here are not really a reversal of the stereotype, but an enforcement.
Traditional Ideas Regarding Gender in the Twelfth Night
William Shakespeare is deemed to be the greatest dramatist of all time. As Ben Jonson, one of his closest friends once said, “Shakespeare is not of an age but for all time”. Many of his plays continue to be studied in our modern era and are a staple to any English curriculum. He has many famous plays that have been performed for more than four hundred years and to this day, we still believe that analyzing Shakespearian plays is a requirement to English literature and that his works should continue to be honoured.
Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is believed to be written in 1601 and counts as one of his last “real” plays and is very alluring in itself. It is considered a comedy filled with miscommunicated gender fluidity that delivers for a great theatrical masterpiece. This play utilizes all the possible springs of ambivalence that may be encountered in this immense game of love extending on multiple dimensions where the desire is never reciprocal and the object of the desire always uncertain.
Involved in a particularly vicious shipwreck, our main character Viola finds land and decides to adopt the identity of her twin brother Sebastian whom she considered to be dead at sea. In order to get herself out of this ordeal, having no refuge and nothing to help her get back on her feet, she decided to appropriate Sebastian’s features to avoid being forced to join a convent and devote herself to religion, into marriage or prostitution for monetary worth and decides to work under Duke Orsino’s service and have herself called Cesario.
We can then ask ourselves how does Twelfth Night examine traditional ideas regarding gender as well as sexuality? How does it depict and proposes conceivable outcomes between same-sex pairs?
Shakespeare works his way around gender conformity and centres his play around the manner in which the sexual orientation of the characters can be built as one desires to do so. We can pinpoint a central love triangle within the relations in the play. Duke Orsino is in love with the Countess Olivia, but she is in love with Cesario (who is played by Viola) who dismisses the former because she/he herself is in love with the Duke. Sebastian then comes into play and falls in love with the Countess who confuses him for his sister Viola and decides to marry him. This love triangle filled with unreturned love is the main plot of the play and serves as its key climatic irony. The auxiliary love triangles finds itself when Cesario rejects Countess Olivia because Cesario is in reality a woman whereas Sebastian instantly falls in love with Olivia and forms another dimension to the love triangle. The multiple liaisons are in place and its protagonists are unable to merge in this never ending desire filled spiral. Even Sebastian is helpless and cannot escape the looming ambiguity that is present throughout the play. Antonio, the sea captain who came to his rescue after the shipwreck is in love with him. His character seems to be making a joke of the whole love triangle situation as the love he harbours for Sebastian is sincere compared to the superficial relationships in the play.
Duke Orsino is all over the place. he does not know where to put his head as he likes to believe that he is in love with the Countess Olivia yet still finds himself falling for Viola whom he believes and considers to be one of his male servants. Even he is entranced with Cesario’s fair physical attributes and decides to employ him/her to court the Countess. We start to believe that the Duke is not really in love with Olivia but instead, he is more in love with the idea of being in love and would courtship anyone willing to receive his love. The first lines in the play are “If music be the food of love, play on, /Give me excess of it that, surfeiting, /The appetite may sicken and so die. The starting lines help us understand the Duke better as we can see that he is obsessed with love. He asks his servants to keep playing so that he is filled with music to the point where he would not be able to take it anymore which would inevitably put a stop to his incessant infatuation over the Countess Olivia. Using Cesario as a pawn, he send his servant over to the Countess and makes Cesario deliver as speech. The speech of love that Cesario delivers is not the one the Duke intended for her to hear. Instead Cesario who at this point has fallen in love with the
Duke changes the message and delivers a speech which we can say is the starting point of Olivia’s infatuation with Cesario. She believes him to be the male servant of Orsino and is entranced by his words. Cesario has Olivia fall in love with him instead of having her fall in love with Orsino like they originally planned. It makes Olivia realize that the way the Duke is proclaiming his love for her which we can generate a mental image that would ressemble him, lounging in his abode, probably being served grapes on his futon while he wallows in self pity and complains about not being loved back cannot be compared to the Duke putting effort in his courtship by pursuing her day and night, going to see her and staying by her door waiting for her to want him back. It is inevitable that Olivia swallows up Cesario’s words and plants the idea in her head that she would rather have someone like Cesario courting her. “Let him send no more unless perchance you come to me again”, we can see that Olivia would like to see Cesario again and maybe have him seek her undivided attention and love’.
William Shakespeare: the Biography and the Twelfth Night
Nothing takes the moniker of a timeless classic like Shakespeare’s writings. He is known for his plays of magnitude, passion and drama that still continue to thrill audiences all over the world. He explicitly explores man fantasies, flaws, vanities, passion, desires in the English language as his poetry takes the magnitude of today’s culture. William Shakespeare has been heralded as the greatest writer earning him the appellation as the ‘Swan of Avon’. His twenty years of writing saw him take a toll on human emotions and conflict, which, in an era laden by people who were progressing molded his artistic nature. His plays, comedies, poems, sonnets and tragicomedies of great magnitude are some of the pieces that makes the legendary playwriter a widely known figure in the history of literature. And yet, his personal life remains shrouded in mystery, gaps and lost years. Shakespeare lives on because of his words, hence, this essay will analyze the biography of William Shakespeare from birth, his early life, career as a playwriter and his eventual, sudden demise. Herein is also an analysis of the theme of love in his romantic comedy; The Twelfth Night sometimes called ‘What You Will’ (1601-1602).
William was born in in the Elizabethan era on April 23rd 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon. This era, was marked by exponential growth, rapid developments, explorations and commercialization and hence was sometimes referred to as the Golden era. England at that time being led by Queen Elizabeth I, was rising in international power and hence it was a time of new pride in the nation, or more specifically a first pride in the English Language. And Indeed, England was ripe for Shakespeare’s arrival and his genius. He was baptized in the Holy Trinity Church on 26th April 1564. His Latin birth name registered was ‘ Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakspeare’ by his parents Mary and John Shakespeare. His father was a skilled Leatherman and would makes gloves, purses and shoes. As a way to survive in the then burgeoning economy, he was also a money lender. Mary’s father was an affluent aristocrat who owned land and in 1557 when she decided to marry John, a rift was temporarily created. William was the first son to John and Mary and the third by age as he had older sisters-Joan Margret and Anne -who had both passed away after the bubonic plague attack (Rowe 2).
Shakespeare was known to be a disciplined child and he would wake up and using a soft piece cloth and sweetish paste, he would clean his teeth before waiting for his fathers’ blessings at the dinner table school. Although there are no records of his school attendance and his father being a local resident, many scholars concur that he attended the Kings New School which was a chartered school for the locals. Additionally, the quality of English being taught was varied, and as a result he translated texts from English to Latin and vice versa. The school would also provide Latin classical lessons.
There was no record of Shakespeare attending University and little is known about his life during this time and they are often referred to as the ‘lost years’. One Plausible explanation is that at 14 he might have been withdrawn from school to follow in his father’s apprentice footsteps. At 18 he was married to Anne Hathaway who was 26 years old and lived in the village of Shottery. It is important to note that Anne was pregnant before the marriage. The marriage was controversial as during this era the consensual age for marriage was 21 and Shakespeare was only 18. Also, their intention to marry had to be announced on three consecutive holy days also known as ‘Crying the Banns’ which allowed any objections to be raised before the marriage could incept (Rowe 5). The Diocese court of Worcester issued a special license after the Hathaway sisters issues a bond asserting that no lawful allegations should deter the ceremony. The marriage was arranged in haste and six months later her daughter Suzanna who was baptized on 26th May 1583. Two years later Anne bore William twins; Hamnet and Judith. He had a growing family and in the 1580 he left for London. His first mention was in the London Theatre scene in 1592. Another series of lost years was between 1585 and 1592 where scholars have postulated a series of explanation to explain the gap. His first biographer, Nicholas Rowe narrates that Shakespeare must have flown to London to escape his prosecution on poaching deer’s in the estate of Thomas Lucy. Others such as John Aubrey posit that Shakespeare must have been a school master during this time. Others assert he was escaping Lucy’s wrath after writing. However, it is in 1592 that Shakespeare was about to surprise Englanders with a series of sonnets, poems and plays.
London and Shakespeare’s Theatrical career
The universe is a platform and all men and women are players. Each individual has an exist and an entrance except for one person who is multifaceted (Act Two scene VII)
The exact timing when Shakespeare begun his writing is unknown but evidence of his performances and writing have been documented in London as early as in 1592. He joined group of writing and acting in new theatres to write Henry VI and Two gentlemen of Arona. His launch was a success and was attacked by another playwright; Robert Greene who mentioned Shakespeare as an upstart crow who has beautified feather and the heart of tiger wrapped as a player (Hussey 8). Here Greene was attacking Shakespeare for reaching at the writing level of educated writers such as Christopher Marlowe and himself. He was also accusing his ungrateful nature and being tight with money. Greene’s comments is the only surviving evidence that Shakespeare’s career begun as a playwright and that which meant his career was culminating to strength. In fact, Henry VI play produced tears from hundreds of spectators. His ability to write a wide range of materials from sonnets, lyrical comedies, plays, poems and even history plays in 1594 and his name by then had garnered a selling point. His works such as ‘Every Man his humor’, Sejanus his Fall, and As You Like It gathered him attention even with noblemen. In the summer of 1596 however, tragedy struck and his 11-year-old son and only heir, Hamnet died on 11th August 1956 and this meant he had no heir no matter how much wealth he had accrued. He writes how grief follows him everywhere he went as it reminded him of his gone son (King John Act 3 scene IV)
Most his sonnets have been given to probable mentions; a young man whose identity remains unknown hence has been called the ‘Fair Youth’ and the ‘Dark lady’. In one sonnet, the sonnet speaker who happens to be Shakespeare narrates how his mistresses cannot be compared to the sun and her lips are red (Sonnet 130). Here, he shows an obsessive love of emotions to the dark lady which in many ways he would love to leave. Despite the controversy, his plays were anticipated, entertaining and above all, commercial. While living in London he kept to himself and would perform while still new writing plays; Romeo and Juliet, Loves Labors lost and A Mid-Summer Night Dream (Leggatt 5). Living away from his family, perhaps his marriage was loveless as many of his plays do not have many love concepts as seen in Twelfth Night where his character Orsino gives an advice not to marry an older woman (Act 2 scene IV).
In 1600, a plague outbreak was killing people and the theaters were closed giving his acting career a repeated halt. In 1630 he bought a house in Blackfrairs where he resided with his son in law. In 1603 with King James I in ruling, Shakespeare was appointed as the Kings men and the leading dramatist. He was even considered a gentleman. His last years were ostensibly one of the best of his career. Between 1603-1607, he wrote his famous tragedies of Fellow Macbeth. Here his works demonstrated a love for human psychology that many posit was related to his life experiences. His writing scenes related to human situations and desires for example as seen in the tragedy. Beyond 1610 he wrote fewer plays some which he collaborated with John Fletcher who later took over as the main playwriter. His linguistic works transformed the world of English.
In the summer of 1613, a fire enraged the theatre and accompanied with the plague, his career ended after performing Henry VIII. Even So, he retired a rich gentleman and a landowner owning the second largest house in Stratford. But still he had no son to inherit his fortune and in 1616 he wrote his willing bequeathing everything to his oldest daughter Suzanna. No power was left to his wife and Judith. The rift in his family shows the two might not have been emotionally close. One night after eating to many pickled herrings and drinking too much wine, John Ward narrates Shakespeare contracted a fever and fell ill (Hooks 2 ). Shakespeare died on 23rd April 1616 at the age fifty-two-on his birthday. He died without seeing his famous plays officially published and they were published in 1623 seven years after his death, carefully gathered by actors and friends. He was buried at the Holy Trinity Church on 25th April 1616. Another tragedy for the Shakespeare family in 1632 when Anne died. She was 67 and is buried next to her husband at Holy Trinity Church.
Love as a Theme in the ‘Twelfth Night’ by William Shakespeare
Twelfth Night sees Shakespeare exploring and illustrating the concept of desire, the recipe for love, in precise detail. Love in its broadest sense can be defined as the strong affection towards someone. The play narrates the story of twins; Viola and Sebastian who after a ship wreck following a storm are separated. Trapped in IIIyria, Viola masquerades herself as Cesario and later becomes the serviceman to Orsino the Duke. In this twisted play of true and sometimes, fake love, Shakespeare explores the different types of love, and in effect, he brings out the theme of love as powerful, imploring and overpowering to the characters.
There is evidence of family love between the characters. This type of love is manifested by its purity that emanates from true love. It is not deceived nor accepted due to superficial features but instead reigns in the hearts of the characters as what any 21st century man would call a ‘blood’s that’s thicker than water’. Familial love can be seen between Olivia and Sebastian who are siblings. Sibling love is strong as evidenced when Sebastian and Viola are separated but they never cease to think about each other. Olivia and her brother are also depicted to be bonded together by sibling love as Olivia is seen avoiding the company of men as she mourns the loss of her brother.
The theme of true love between Viola and Orsino. Unlike other characters who are illusional and clouded with superficial appeal, Viola’s love for Orsino is genuine. Her love for duke remains unaltered neither is it shared or transferred to another character. Although disguising herself as a man, Olivia loves Orisino so much that he vows to be his wife (Act 1 scene IV). Her genuine love is further supported when she reveals her true identity to Orsino. True love manifests in its truest form and by being honest to Orsino, Viola’s love is undoubtedly one of the rarest.
Self- love in the Twelfth night is amply represented by Malvolio. Malvolio envisions himself as the handsome and noble gentleman that many women crave. He is depicted as an overly serious character with no humor. His self-absorption is commented by Olivia and is purposefully punished for his ego as he believes his lady loves him (II.5.137). Another instance is when he marvels at Olivia’s beauty calling the wise men fools (Act 1 Scene V). This Scene shows the character loathing humor and believing none of the character can outmatch him. Malvolio is absorbed in himself that he refers to the other characters as idle elements to symbolically mean the power he wishes to have over them.
Of a great play writer like Shakespeare to die is a tragic loss. But even as the literary world mourns his loss, his linguistic skills in plays still lives on. His works have garnered attention from literary scholars. Love is a common human experience and Shakespeare knows just have to impinge Twelfth Night Character with it. It seems to be true that Shakespeare was a respected man during his time in the 16th-17th century. However, his ability as a literary genius was unknown until the 19th century. In modern times his works are repeated and interpreted in performances with diverse pollical-cultural contexts. With his characters carrying with them human emotions and conflicts, the works of this poetic genius often relate to his audiences. With his 37 plays, endless sonnets and emotion laden poetry, Shakespeare will remain to be a legend in the hearts of many. Love is a common culture within mankind’s territory and just like Shakespeare categorized the different kinds of love, so does todays people.
Mystery of Sexual Identity and Love in Twelfth Night
MAJOR THEMES IN WILLIAM SHAKESPEAR’S TWELLTH NIGHT
William Shakespeare explored some major themes in his literary work “The Twelfth Night.” The play indicates the relationship existing between individuals and love. The actions of characters that are influenced by love are indicated in the literary work. In this essay, the major themes explored in William Shakespeare’s play are well explained. Their exploration as well as how the characters appear to have contributed to the development of the themes is well elaborated.
To begin with, the theme of love is expressed in many occasions in the play. The play generally comes out as a romantic comedy .the main focus in the play is romance. In the end of the play, the characters that are shown as lovers find one another and achieve wedded bliss. Despite of all the happiness and love, the writer expresses how love can be a huge source of pain. Towards the end of the play, Sebastian notably apologizes to Olivia for having beaten up two of her relatives who planned an attack on him. Olivia is seen to be strangely looking at Sebastian because of his cruel actions to her relatives. It is the love that exists between the two that has probably caused Viola the pain. She cannot imagine Sebastian beating up her relatives. Sebastian in return apologizes for his wrong doing to Olivia and her relatives. He asks for forgiveness for having broken their marriage vows. (Shakespeare 93).
The playwright is trying to communicate to us the importance of marriage vows in a relationship. He tries to express to us how the marriage vows are of significance and should not be broken by any chance. Sebastian seemingly broke their marriage vows and he had to apologize for that. We are also told of the pain that comes along with unfaithfulness in an official marriage. It is because of Sebastian’s actions that Viola seems to be upset with him.
Many characters in the play have a similar perception about love. They view love as a kind of a curse. They feel that love is a cause of suffering, which attacks its victims all of a sudden and disrupts everything. The characters in Shakespeare’s play claim to suffer painfully as a result of being in love or due to the effects of unreciprocated love. For instance, Orsino depicts love miserably as a source of satisfaction for his manly desires. He goes ahead to call his desires “fell and cruel hounds”. (Shakespeare 21).
On the other hand, Olivia describes love as a plague that causes her terrible suffering. The metaphors used by the characters to describe love depict love as cruel and a source of violence in the universe. Viola explains how she is desperately in love for her master. As elaborated in act five, scene one, the desperation that Viola has for her master’s love has the potential to result in violence. Orsino shows possibilities that he can kill Cesario for having forsaken him to become Olivia’s lover. In his elaboration of love as a source of pain and violence, the playwright strives to communicate to readers the significance of showing love in return for those who are lovers. He explains how violence and pain arises from couples who do not appreciate the love that they are showed by their partners.
In the play, love also comes out to be exclusionary. Some characters in the play achieve romantic happiness while others do not manage to be happy in their relationship. At the end of the play, some lovers rejoice to their love but Malvolio and Antonio fallen victims of unhappiness. Time has come for Malvolio, who has pursued Olivia to realize his mistake. He ultimately realizes that he is not unworthy for his decent princess. (Shakespeare 81). Antonio too is in a difficult situation as others are in happiness. The writer communicates to readers how love cannot conquer obstacles and how those whose desires go unfulfilled do not remain in love but instead severely feel its absence.
In the play, gender uncertainty is also a major theme that is discussed to a greater extent. In the play, comedy is expressed when a female character disguises herself as a man. Viola creates a sexual mess by trying to appear as a man. Viola loves Orsino but does not have the courage to express her love. She fears that she is a man and cannot be in love with a fellow man. On the contrary, Olivia, who is the object of Orsino’s affection, falls for Viola in her guise as Cesario. The situation here is confusing as Olivia is in love with a woman even if she thinks he is a man and Orsino occasionally remarked Cesario to be beautiful. (Shakespeare 71). The playwright communicates to us the confusion that can be brought when women starts to put on as men, and men as women. He speaks out the rot that may crop up in the society when there is uncertainty of gender in our society.
The play ends with Shakespeare leaving things somehow shadowy. He does not show light in Orsino-Viola relationship. Orsino probably enjoys the pretense of Viola’s masculinity as evident in his declaration to love Viola. We are left to wonder whether Orsino Is truly in love with Viola as the author does not show the ending of their love. The suspense that the author creates leaves readers to think critically about what should be done in the modern society to curb the mess in gender uncertainty.
Additionally, the folly of ambition is also a theme that is well explored in William Shakespeare’s play. Some characters are over ambitious with their dreams in the play. For instance, Malvolio, who appear to be experienced enough proves to be egocentric with incredible ambitions that he cannot achieve as per his social class. Malvolio’s ambitions are played with by Maria who fakes a letter, claiming to be in love with him. She pretends to be willing to marry Malvolio, an action that is found to be frantically funny by Sir Toby and his fellows due to Malvolio’s social class. (Shakespeare 81).
Malvolio, in the play raised his ambitions to a very high level that he does not deserve. In this case, the playwright communicates to readers that we should be contented with our social class. He also elaborates how we should learn to set valid and reachable ambitions. The atmosphere of the play renders Malvolio’s aspirations less unreasonable than they initially seemed to be.
In conclusion, Twelfth Night is seen as a romantic comedy about hidden identities and mixed-up love triangle .The themes that are majorly explored in the play are those of the mystery of sexual identity and the mystery of love. The play hence raises questions about what makes us who we are, compelling the audience to wonder if issues like gender and class are set or if they can be altered by a change of clothing.
Twelfth Night as a Base for She’s the Man Novel
“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564 and wrote some of the world’s most favorite plays. Many of William Shakespeare’s plays have been made into movies, whether it is the exact copy of the play or a parody or rendition of the play. The famous movie, She’s the Man, staring the well-known actress Amanda Bynes, was actually based off of William Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night. Twelfth Night is one of the many plays Shakespeare wrote that was modernized into a beloved movie today.
In She’s the Man, Viola takes the role of her twin brother, Sebastian who is away traveling in London. She does this to prove that girls can play soccer just as well as guys. Her attempt to prove that females are just as good as males provides many gender references in the movie. One example of this is when Sebastian’s soccer coach compares Viola to her twin brother Sebastian and says, “girls can’t play soccer.” After that Viola’s mother encourages Viola to become a debutante. A debutante is a young upper class woman who begins to go to upper class parties so she can be seen by upper class men and maybe future employers. On the other hand, in the play Twelfth Night,
Shakespeare’s characters disguise themselves, both in the play and modern interpretation, as a means to get closer to other characters. In the play, Viola disguises herself as a man named Cesario while Olivia goes to work in the house of Duke Orsino. She has her twin brother in mind when disguising herself but she does not Through cross dressing and an insane amount of deception, a love triangle forms between Olivia, Viola, and the Duke. Similarly, in the film Viola disguises herself as her twin brother Sebastian while Olivia happens to be Sebastian’s lab partner in school and ends up developing a crush on him due to his “sensitivity.” Through the same tactics of cross dressing and deception, another love triangle forms in the movie when Viola starts to fall in love with Duke and Olivia falls in love with fake Sebastian.
Both Viola’s in Twelfth Night and She’s the Man have similar yet very different motives behind them impersonating a man. In the film, Viola (Bynes) wants to impersonate her brother to prove to everyone that girls can play soccer just as well as guys. The girls’ soccer program was being shut down and the school that she was attending did not allow coed sports so in order to play with the guys she would have to be one of the guys. In the film, Viola’s motive to disguise herself is exclusively an ambitious motive to prove herself. In contrast, Twelfth Night’s Viola chooses to disguise herself in order to not only protect her true identity which is that she is the only survivor of her wealthy family, but also to ensure that she would be given the same rights as a man would have, in and out of the workforce. The quote below explains Viola’s motive of self-protection.
VIOLA: “O that I served that lady
And might not be delivered to the world,
Till I had made mine own occasion mellow,
What my estate is!” (I.ii.43-46)
One major similarity and difference is the “good deed” that is done by one of the characters. In Twelfth Night Viola services Duke Orsino by helping him try to court Olivia. Similarly, in She’s the Man Viola does try to help Duke court Olivia but Duke does Viola (Bynes) by training her in soccer so that she can have the potential and skills to be able to play on against the men’s soccer team. Besides being connected very closely, there are many small references to Twelfth Night in She’s the Man. When Viola, disguised as her twin brother Sebastian, walks through the Illyria Prep campus for the first time she passes a bulletin board that has a poster for the school’s production of What You Will, which just happens to be another name for Twelfth Night. The name “Illyria” comes from the play and is known for its romantic atmosphere and is located near todays modern Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Albania, Croatia, and Montenegro. Another example is the after school hangout of Illyria Prep campus which is a pizza parlor called Cecario’s. In Twelfth Night, Cesario is the name of Viola’s alias in Twelfth Night.
“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” This is the most famous lines in both the play and movie version. In She’s the Man, Duke delivers these lines to the soccer team just like in the play, when Malvolio reads them aloud from a letter. In the film, Duke says, “It’s just like what Coach says before every game: Be not afraid of greatness, some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. I think our best chance to be great here today, is to have you play. She’s the Man loses much of the intended tragic impact that was very much present in the play Twelfth Night. Shakespeare had one main theme when writing Twelfth Night. Love and death were very present in Twelfth Night when Malvolio says that he is open to love when in reality he is scared of any mutual love relationship. For him, it is easier to send middle men to woo her only because it flatters him to feel like he loves her more than she loves him which can be very confusing because why would you want to love someone who does not love you as much as you love her. Consequently, in She’s the Man, there is no similarity with the scripts except the fact that the writers kept the basic plot of the play.
In comparison with Twelfth Night, She’s the Man is an accurate representation of the plot for a modern day interpretation of the original play. Both Viola’s have equally important motives for disguising themselves and Viola’s motive in the film does a good job of preserving the play’s original motive. She’s the Man is an excellent modern interpretation of Shakespeare’s original play Twelfth Night. Even though the scenarios in which the characters are put into are different, the modern movie adaptation does a phenomenal job of preserving Shakespeare’s main plot and themes.
Similarities Between the Twelfth-night Feast and the Le Perspective
The Twelfth-Night Feast and Le Perspective, both of which are at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, possess different genres, are creations of different cultures, and they depict different scenes. However, beyond their differences, the two paintings are similar in that they both represent families doing everyday actions within their class group.
The Twelfth-Night Feast is an oil on canvas painting by the Dutch artist Jan Havicksz. Steen. It is observed in early January towards the end of the Christmas season, at the beginning of Epiphany, commonly known as Three Kings’ Day, which celebrates the arrival of the three kings. In the painting Steen depicts a prosperous Dutch family celebrating the holiday through exquisite detail and expression.
One may assume that this piece is representative of a celebration through the expressive qualities of the characters’ or family members’ faces. On the floor we see two young children joyfully playing with candles, behind them sits a couple being teased by what appears to be a jester, dressed in a pointy cap, who is enthusiastically sticking his tongue out in a taunting mood and hovering a rod above the happy couple’s heads. Next to the Jester is another performer, a musician, who seems to be jauntily playing music for the family seated around the table, below him appears to be a couple joyously tossing their hands and laughing, while near by a maid looks as though she is giving a toddler a sip of alcohol from a chalice, and attending to the young boys close by, one of whom seems to be attempting to feed the toddler an already eaten waffle. Other iconographic evidence that suggests this scene is a celebration includes the overall disorder of the scene, such as the broken egg shells scattered along the floor, a pitcher of alcohol ready to be poured, ladles thrown on the ground, half eaten food, cleared serving dishes, and the most telling of all, glasses of ale and chalices of some sort of alcohol, probably wine. It is also apparent that the celebration is probably taking place in the evening, for lighting presented in the piece gives the sense of candle light/light from a form of fire such as a fire place, due to the soft hues, shadows, and dimness throughout the entire work. We also get a sense of evening and candle light from the candles set on the floor, and what appears to be firewood in the lower right corner, directing the eye to a light source, which dimly reflects off both the floor and white column, possibly suggesting a moveable light such as fire.
Le Perspective is also an oil canvas painting created by the French painter Antoine Watteau. This painting depicts the fête galante style, where ladies and gentlemen appear to converse, flirt, and create music in beautiful outdoor settings. In the distance of this painting appears to be Château de Montmorency, which is the home of Watteau’s friend and patron, Pierre Crozat. Watteau successfully illustrates a fantasy world evocative of the backdrop in theatre and graceful characters in elaborate old-fashioned garb.
Although this piece has no defining moment or central character, one may observe that it a peaceful setting in which wealthy couples promenade through a serene and tranquil garden. The element of wealth in expressed through the elegant and decorative costumes, the divine garden with towering trees and the colossal planters, but most importantly the private residence softly depicted in the background expresses wealth. Since it is clear that a patron of the arts owns the structure at the end of garden, it is suggested that those strolling through the garden are not merely strangers, but guests, invited to the summer villa to stay.
It is also clear within the painting that the couples are enjoying themselves during the lovely after noon, which is expressed through the gestures and actions of the characters. On the far left one observes an elegantly dressed man gesturing to his silken clad partner to explore the garden further, while beneath them another beautifully clothed couple enjoys the strumming of a guitar. Behind the couple enjoying the music, sits a woman conversing with a man who seems to be her husband and next to the woman sits what appears to be a young girl who looks over her shoulder distracted by the music. Across the field sits two more young girls, potentially daughters of the woman sitting behind the musician, who are enveloped in the act of picking flowers. Finally, further down the field, the viewer observes another couple and their dog casually strolling back to the house. Each of these elements suggests a state of tranquility and peacefulness.
Although The Twelfth-Night Feast and Le Perspective are contextually, culturally, and stylistically different, there are still some apparent similarities between the two works. For example, both works are of upper-class citizens partaking in some form of event. In the Twelfth-Night Feast one can observe forms of wealth through the employment of entertainment, the elegant garb such as the blue dress the young girl is wearing and the fur cuffs the woman behind her is sporting, as well as through the employment of servants and wait staff. Similarly, Le Perspective expresses symbols of wealth through elegant clothing, the large and pristine garden, and the beautiful summer villa in the background. Both paintings also express forms of enjoyment, one a celebration, whereas the other is a peaceful walk through a beautiful garden. Lastly, both paintings express elements of the culture and the stylistic choices of each culture. In The Twelfth-Night Feast, one observes Dutch culture through the clothing, the food, and the extravagant celebration. One also observes Dutch stylistic choices through the busy setting, the emphasis on light and tonality, as well as through the expressive faces and gestures. Whereas in Le Perspective, one observes French culture through the simple upper-class privilege of walking through a garden, and observes French stylistic choices through the large emphasis of a serene landscape and a de-emphasis of expression and gesture and more on proportion and anatomy.
Although The Twelfth-Night Feast and Le Perspective are vastly different in culture, genre, and scenery, there are still some apparent similarities between the two works and their compositions.
Love and Mistaken Identities in Twelfth Night, a Play by William Shakespeare
Twelfth Night Analysis
“Twelfth Night” is a play written by Shakespeare. This play, mainly based on love, begins with Orsino trying to win Olivia’s love. Viola, who was shipwrecked, assists the Duke by disguising herself as Cesario and ends up falling in love with the Duke. Olivia’s servant, Maria, plays a prank on Malvolio. Maria sends Malvolio love letters as if they were written by Olivia, leading Malvolio into believing that Olivia loves him but instead, makes a fool of himself. The Duke wants Cesario to win Olivia’s love for him, however Olivia confesses her love for Cesario. One of Olivia’s men, Sir Andrew, challenges Cesario to a fight but he declines. Sebastian, Viola’s twin brother who was also shipwrecked, makes an appearance and is led to marriage by Olivia who mistakens him for Cesario. Cesario uncovers himself as Viola, and the Duke asks her to marry him, meanwhile Sir Toby and Maria get married. The central idea is often everyone falls in love. To understand “Twelfth Night,” one must know how mistaken identities create humor, how love affects the conflict, and the opposites Malvolio and Sir Toby represent.
Shakespeare uses mistaken identities to create humor. Humor is created when Viola asks the captain to “Conceal [her] of what she is” (I.2.51) “to assure her own protection” (Roberts). The audience is well aware that Cesario is a woman but the rest of the characters in the play don’t know this. This fact entertains the audience in many scenes. For example, when Cesario is asked to win Olivia’s love for the Duke, Olivia falls in love with Cesario instead. It is known to the audience that Olivia is falling for a woman but she is not well aware of this which creates amusement. When Sir Toby creates a feud between Cesario and Sir Andrew for a fight, little does Sir Toby know that Cesario is a woman. This unknown fact to the characters enlightens the audience to anticipate what will happen in the fight. Viola being disguised to look a lot like her brother, raises tension when Antonio mistaken Cesario for Sebastian. Humor is also created when Olivia marries Sebastian instead of Cesario and the Duke’s love shifts from Olivia to Viola. Viola disguised as Cesario creates dramatic irony and keeps the readers entertained by the humor created in the scenes.
The theme of love affects the conflict in a couple of ways, Viola’s love for Orsino and Olivia’s love for Cesario. Viola’s love for Orsino is true love. She falls in love with him instantly but can do nothing about it because she is still disguised as Cesario. Even though she is pretending to be a man and is not known by the people of Illyria, she “would be his wife” (I.4.41) and is hoping he is “constant to her” and “inconstant in his affections for Olivia” (Roberts). The Duke and Cesario become very close and have a great bond working together so when Cesario reveals himself as Viola, it is easy for them to marry each other. In another love scenario, Olivia loves Cesario but he does not love her back. As Cesario tries winning Olivia’s love for the Duke, Olivia falls for Cesario because he knows what exactly a woman would like to hear. Love plays a major role in this play. The theme of love affects the conflict because other characters fall for each other but when true colors are revealed in the end of the play, the characters love for each other switches up.
Malvolio and Sir Toby Belch obtain opposite characteristics in this play. Malvolio is Olivia’s steward and is of the lower class. He is very stern and hates almost everyone. He criticizes everything and what everyone does. Malvolio is the opposite of happy. He likes to maintain a good manner but loses it when he tries to impress Olivia. On the other hand, Sir Toby Belch is Olivia’s uncle and is of the upper class. He loves to drink, sing, and dance. Sir Toby is pretty obnoxious and rude. He uses Sir Andrew, his drinking buddy, to marry Olivia so he can get away with drinking. Sir Toby is also a careless man and has no shame in being loud and drunk as his niece mourns for her brothers death. Malvolio bickers at Sir Toby’s habits and calls him out by asking him, “Have you no wit, manners, nor honesty” (II.3.82). Sir Toby does not like Malvolio because he only cares for his social rank and mainly because he judges Sir Toby of his partying habits. Malvolio doesn’t like Sir Toby because of his improper behavior. The two come from different social classes but act the opposite of their class. These two are completely different; Malvolio wants “everyone to be as austere and priggish as he is” and Sir Toby “always finds pleasure in life” (Roberts).
Knowing how mistaken identities create humor, how the theme of love affects conflict, and the opposites Malvolio and Sir Toby represent need to be understood when reading this play. Being able to identify who the characters are and what characteristics they portray will help the readers understand them better. Love is a major theme that affects the conflict and being able to identify the love triangles will give a better understanding of this play.
Gender Expectations and Courtship in As You Like It and Twelfth Night
Although some Shakespearean plays carve out a more passive, male-defined role for women, such as that which is exemplified through Ophelia’s obedience to Polonius in Hamlet, the comedies of As You Like It and Twelfth Night explore women’s potential for unexpected honesty, especially within the dynamics of courtship. In As You Like It, the female character Rosalind, who is disguised as a male named Ganymede, is defined by her interactions with Phoebe and Orlando. As a result of contact with each of these characters, Rosalind articulates some variety of truth either about the other character’s personality or the societal conception of appropriate behavior for their gender. The character of Countess Olivia in Twelfth Night, however, expresses her personal attitude about others less for the purpose of exploring the tendencies of human nature than for the hope of obtaining the favor of those to whom she is attracted. In both of the aforementioned plays, female courtship seems to be primarily centered upon a desire to express a certain truth, either about themselves or other characters with whom they interact. The motivation for expressing this inner thought, however, tends to be dictated by the behavioral expectations for their gender. In the case of Rosalind, honest speech is produced as a result of the newfound social freedom associated with her adoption of a male physical appearance. Within the purely feminine appearance of Olivia, however, courtship seems to be driven by a more emotional concern for her amorous future rather than an attempt to improve those with whom her security is not inextricably linked.
This social freedom through the realm of courtship is first illustrated through Rosalind’s interaction with the shepherdess Phoebe, who is averse to the advances of a shepherd named Silvius. After the audience experiences Silvius’ painful and apparently repeated rejection by the shepherdess, Rosalind urges, …mistress, know yourself; down on your knees / And thank heaven, fasting, for a good man’s love; / For I must tell you with a friendly ear, / Sell when you can. You are not for all markets.” (As You Like It 3.5.110-113)
Although Rosalind claims that she uses a “friendly ear” to make the shepherdess aware of the negative traits that make her unappealing to any other man, it is rather obvious that these comments are instead of an extremely harsh nature. Though Rosalind is primarily motivated to disguise herself as a male because of the physical safety from danger the gender provides, she is also unknowingly presented with social safety. She now possesses the ability to comment upon others’ lack of social success not only without producing animosity but also by ironically eliciting amorous feelings. This concept is exemplified in Phoebe’s later assertion that, even though the qualities of her personality have been consistently abused by Rosalind, “…the scorn in your bright eyne / Have power to raise such love in mine, / Alack, in me what strange effect / Would they work in mild aspect?” (As You Like It 4.3.50-54).
Ultimately, though Rosalind does not intend to invite an intimate relationship with the shepherdess, she represents a form of truth not bestowed upon her by Silvius that she finds attractive. Whereas Silvius usually showers her with innumerable compliments, Rosalind increases Phoebe’s awareness of her own ugly personality. Therefore, the honesty this male persona produces is accepted simply because Rosalind presents a different variety of courtship that the shepherdess finds more appealing. If Rosalind were not embodying a male figure, Phoebe would not be attracted to her criticisms and therefore would not react positively to her. This freedom associated with her gender ultimately allows her expression of disapproval of the shepherdess’ actions to be positively received.
In contrast to these conversations with Phoebe which primarily concern a specific critique of her far too selective romantic standards, Rosalind’s later interactions with Orlando exemplify a different sort of social analysis: that of general gender characteristics. Although Rosalind’s love for Orlando, as well as his overwhelming attraction to her, is made clear after his decisive defeat of the wrestler Charles in the first act, Rosalind displays a different sentiment entirely after her embodiment of Ganymede’s persona. When Orlando claims that he cannot be cured of his love attachment, Rosalind asserts that she has previously pretended to be the female that another man powerfully desired and that
He was to imagine her his love, his mistress; and she sent him every day to woo her. At which time would she…now like him, now loathe him; then entertain him, then forswear him; now weep for him, then spit at him, that she drave her suitor from his mad humour of love to a living humour of madness…” (As You Like It 3.2.364-374)
It is within this passage that Rosalind first uses her disguise to comment upon accepted gender roles through her contemplation of the unpredictable nature of women. It is evident that Rosalind believes herself to have significant insight upon certain aspects of gender that can cause a relationship to proliferate or fail. This opinion, when coupled with her aforementioned personal criticism of Phoebe’s personality, displays that this character’s sense of successful courtship is greatly rooted in what these gender roles deem to be appropriate. If a woman is unreasonable in her action, such as is shown in the above quotation, the amorous emotions of a male can rarely tolerate the strain. This interaction between Rosalind and Orlando, then, is based upon the same premises as her criticism of Phoebe in that, though Phoebe is scrutinized on a more personal level, both situations maintain the same truth about amorous relationships as related to cultural constraints. It is only through the freedom that seemingly male-male communication produces that these opinions about females, specifically those which concern the behavior of Orlando’s beloved, can be expressed without offense. This decision to aid Orlando in ridding himself of his love for Rosalind further develops a significant relationship which ultimately provides the opportunity for even more direct criticism to be well received.
Rosalind later extends her assessment of the social premises of courtship to the general tendencies of men as she states that “…men are April when they woo, December when they wed. May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives” (As You Like It 4.1.124-127). Comparable to Rosalind’s honest expression of the stereotypical nature of women, she once again freely criticizes Orlando, but this time concentrates upon a female’s interactions with the opposite sex. Through this quotation, Rosalind seems to challenge the long term validity of Orlando’s love attachment and asserts that, despite the fact that he now claims to be devoted to his love’s satisfaction, his later actions will prove to be identical to those of other men. She even continues this generalization of his character as she later declares, “I knew what you would prove; my friends told me as much, and I thought no less. That flattering tongue of yours won me” (As You Like It 4.1.156-158). Rosalind’s mention of Orlando’s “flattering tongue” once again makes reference to the idea of false wooing that ultimately terminates after the woman has been contractually obtained. This criticism of negative male characteristics, as well as those of females mentioned previously, is made possible due to the closer relationship Rosalind forms with Orlando as a result of her altered physical appearance. The male disguise that Rosalind creates results in the development of friendship between the characters. This in turn allows her criticisms of Orlando’s nature as well as those of his beloved to be interpreted as playful jest rather than mean-spirited reproach. Although many of Rosalind’s judgments maintain a certain level of clarity, they would not be looked upon favorably unless she is able to create, in the case of Orlando, the friendship which serves to validate these claims. Within her interactions both with Phoebe and Orlando, Rosalind provides a refreshing escape from the characters with whom they usually interact and, as a result of their being supplied with what they perceive to be a much desired companion, they accept Rosalind’s candid nature.
Although the freedom of expression embodied by Rosalind is primarily motivated by her need to comment upon others’ social shortcomings, Olivia is more directed by obtaining that which she desires. When she is confronted with yet another female character dressed as a male, Viola, she makes an attempt to seize the opportunity for personal support that seems to be offered her. After a conversation with Viola in which she inquires as to her social stature, she reflects on Viola’s answer as well as the nature of her own abrupt change in emotion:
‘What is your parentage?’ / ‘Above my fortunes, yet my state is well. / I am a gentleman.’ I’ll be sworn thou art. / Thy tongue, thy face, thy limbs, actions and spirit / Do give thee five-fold blazon. Not too fast. Soft, soft / Unless the master were the man.
How now? / Even so quickly one may catch the plague? / Methinks I feel this youth’s perfections / With an invisible and subtle stealth / To creep in at mine eyes. Well, let it be. (Twelfth Night 1.5.259-268)
It seems that Viola’s revelation of her status solidifies the positive regard that Olivia has developed and that, though she wonders at the sudden affect that their short conversations have produced, this technicality of social privilege more clearly defines the possibility of a successful relationship. Although Olivia is, at this point, able to be internally honest about her emotions, it is not until later in the play that she is able to explicitly express her desires to Viola in an attempt to forcibly create mutual amorous attachment. She confesses that
By maidenhood, honor, truth, and everything / I love thee so that, maugre all thy pride, / Nor wit nor reason can my passion hide… / Love sought is good, but given unsought is better… / Yet come again, for thou perhaps mayst move / That heart which now abhors, to like this love. (Twelfth Night 3.1.141-155)
This evolution from an inner expression of truth to one that is explicitly directed at another character exemplifies the fact that Olivia employs honesty when she feels it is necessary in order to obtain a sort of emotional security, even if the second party is unwilling. It is evident through Olivia’s final words to Viola that Olivia is of the opinion that, if Viola would only spend more time with her, the powerful attraction that Olivia feels would eventually become mutual. Ultimately, it seems that Olivia believes that her decision to allow herself to be vulnerable enough to express her emotions should immediately produce the effect which she so desperately desires.
Olivia further exercises her autonomy when she essentially demands marriage between herself and Sebastian, whom she thinks to be Viola. This truth of expression that augments in strength throughout the play culminates in a proposal so powerful in its nature that even a male character cannot refuse. She states that “Thou canst not choose but go. / Do not deny. Beshrew his soul for me. / He started one poor heart of mine in thee… / Nay, come, I prithee, would thou’dst be ruled by me.” (Twelfth Night 4.1.53-60) It is most important to note that, in this particular instance, Olivia is successful in obtaining a man through her own agency that she believes to be the one she has been attempting to court throughout the play. Although she does display the same powerful freedom of expression which is embodied by Rosalind, she is motivated not by a desire to inform others of their personality flaws but rather by the inclination toward forming a more secure future for herself. In fact, Olivia seems to display a form of autonomy that is reminiscent of that which is exhibited by Rosalind in that, though she does not match the physical appearance of a male, she is equally as forthright. It could be suggested by these similarities that Olivia’s background, which does not include of any sort of older guiding figure, has allowed her to act like an independent male, due to the fact that there is no one else to make decisions for her. It is shown through Olivia’s character that, when a female is forced to create her own positive life circumstances, she may be afforded the right to speak and act more honestly.
Despite the fact that only Rosalind personifies the male gender both in personality and in physicality, Olivia also has the ability to seize control of her interactions with other characters through her candor. It seems to be suggested through these different examples of autonomy that a male character, or even the character of Rosalind disguised as a male, is able to interact with others solely upon the basis of a detached criticism which is simultaneously independent of emotion. Despite the fact that Rosalind is in love with Orlando throughout the play, she is able to successfully embody her charade of a well meaning friend without allowing too much of her own feelings to be detected. In the case of Olivia, however, despite the fact that she is able to express herself freely in a way that is suggestive of a male, she is never truly able to separate from her relationships with other characters her desire for obtaining a male companion. Ultimately, both plays seem to comment upon the exploration of societal construction of gender and could reiterate that a female character’s potential for freedom of expression involves a true separation from desire that they often cannot seem to achieve without the male physicality to accompany it.
Lovers or Friends: The Mystery of Viola and Orsino’s Relationship
Shakespeare’s classic play, Twelfth Night, tells the story of Viola, a woman who dresses like a man to find a place in Duke Orsino’s court. While working for Orsino, however, Viola falls in love with him, but must hide her feelings in order to protect her new identity and because Orsino is in love with another woman named Olivia. The play deals with ideas of social class, sexuality, and gender, and comments on the roles of these factors in relationships. Through Orsino and Viola’s casual physicality and joint activities as well as the setting and music used in their scenes, the movie version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night portrays their relationship as one of equals and full of sexual tension despite their apparently shared genders, thereby defying the heteronormativity of the era, whereas the play portrays Viola as socially inferior to Orsino and suggests that her love for him will be unrequited as long as she remains disguised as a man.
The casual physical contact between Orsino and Viola in the movie illustrates a relationship of friends or equals in contrast to the play, which shows Orsino to have power over Viola. In the play, when Orsino asks Viola to go woo Olivia for him, he mentions that he chose Viola to “act his woes” because he felt Olivia will “attend it better” due to Viola’s “youth” (1.4.29). He then goes on to describe Viola’s “smooth and rubious” lips, and her “shrill and sound” voice, noting that they are “all semblative a woman’s part” (1.4.3537). These lines can be interpreted as demeaning, as Orsino potentially insults Viola’s masculinity when he tells her that she looks like a woman. However, the film, which does not change Orsino’s lines, uses physical contact between the two to illustrate Orsino’s good humored intentions. In one instance, when Orsino describes picking Viola to “act his woes”, he puts his arm around her as a sign of comradery. Similarly, when he speaks of her “smooth and rubious lip,” Orsino teasingly tickles Viola’s mouth. Viola also reciprocates the friendly physicality by playfully shoving Orsino when he compares her to a “woman,” which demonstrates that she was clearly not offended by his remark. Additionally, as Orsino continues to beg Viola to speak to Olivia on his behalf and remarks that her “constellation is right apt for this affair,” (1.4.3839) he grabs her hand while lying pathetically on a couch. While the play gives no indication of Orsino’s vulnerability, the movie shows Orsino taking Viola’s hand in his moment of need, which further illustrates the intensity of their friendship. Furthermore, the physical aspect of Orsino and Viola’s relationship in the film renders any direct mention of their intimacy by other characters unnecessary. In the play, Valentine, one of Orsino’s servants, observes to Viola that she is “likely to be much advanced” by Orsino, because even though he has only known her “but three days,” she is “already no stranger” to him (1.4.24). However, in the film, these lines are cut, because the intimacy of Orsino and Viola’s relationship is obvious enough without Valentine’s commentary. Similarly, the film cuts Viola’s line where she declares that she wants to “be his wife” (1.4.46). because the chemistry between Viola and Orsino in the movie already portrays her love for him. While the play suggests that Orsino sees himself as superior to Viola, the film utilizes their physical relationship to illustrate a meaningful friendship.
The activities that Viola and Orsino engage in in the film also portray their relationship as one of friends and equals, rather than the play, which depicts Orsino as having a position of power over Viola due to his social class. In the play, Viola and Orsino discuss Viola’s love life. When Orsino asks Viola “what kind of woman” she loves, Viola answers that the person is of Orsino’s “complexion” (2.4.3031). Similarly, when Orsino asks how old the woman is, Viola answers “about your years, my lord” (2.4.33). In this scene, Shakespeare uses dramatic irony as a method of humor, as the reader understands that the person Viola is describing is Orsino, while he remains totally oblivious. The film uses many of the same lines, but when Orsino and Viola have this conversation, they are sitting together while playing cards and smoking cigars. While the lines alone suggest that Orsino is interested in Viola’s love life, the cigars and card game that the two characters share in the film while having this intimate conversation is indicative of their close friendship. Additionally, in the film, Viola does not address Orsino as “my lord,” which suggests that the two are on equal standing as opposed to the play. Viola and Orsino have another meaningful conversation about love later in which they discuss Orsino’s heartache. During this conversation, Orsino calls Viola over by saying “come hither, boy,” and then tells Viola to “remember” him if she ever “shalt love” (2.4.17). The lines stay almost the same in the film, but the two are playing a game of pool while having this conversation which indicates that they are friends. Furthermore, in the film, Orsino’s command “come hither, boy” is cut, as the movie aims to depict a relationship of equals while the play portrays Orsino as socially superior. The activities that Viola and Orsino partake in in the film emphasize their close friendship and depicts their relationship as one of equals.
Not only does the film portray Viola and Orsino as friends, but the setting and music in these characters’ scenes adds a romantic quality to their relationship that the play does not touch on. In the play, when Orsino convinces Viola to go woo Olivia for him, his lines somewhat portray the intimacy of their relationship, as he speaks of giving Viola “the book even of my secret soul” (1.4.15). However, the setting in the film during this scene adds a romantic quality to this exchange, as Viola and Orsino are sitting on cliffs on a beach while having this conversation. By putting the characters in a romantic atmosphere while they have a discussion about love, the film subtly suggests that Orsino and Viola are more than just friends. Similarly, in the play, when Orsino inquires about Viola’s love life, he asks for Feste to “play the tune awhile” (1.4.1516), but no indication is given about the nature of the music that is playing in the scene. However, the film intersperses this scene with one in which Feste plays a love song for Maria, Toby, and Andrew, while Maria sings along with Feste and gives Toby longing glances just as Viola is doing to Orsino in her scene. The love song that plays during these scenes emphasizes the romantic element in Viola and Orsino’s relationship, and the film further comments on a possible romance between Viola and Orsino as it juxtaposes Maria’s longing for Toby and Viola’s love for Orsino. Viola and Orsino have another emotional conversation later, when Orsino once again begs Viola to convince Olivia to marry him. In the play, Viola’s love for Orsino is shown as completely unrequited, as Orsino constantly speaks of his infatuation with Olivia while Viola secretly pins for him. However, by placing Viola and Orsino in another romantic setting while speaking of love, the film continues to imply that there is more to their relationship than friendship, as the two characters screaming at each other on the beach resembles a couple having a lovers quarrel. Furthermore, the film makes changes to Orsino’s lines to insinuate that he is angry at Olivia rather than completely in love with her. In the play, when Orsino speaks of Olivia to Viola, he calls her a “sovereign cruelty,” but then goes on to explain that he does not want her “quantity of dirty lands” or “fortune,” but is instead attracted to her “nature” (2.4.8995). However, the film cuts all of Orsino’s lines in which he speaks of Olivia’s kind “nature,” and instead only includes the line in which he calls her cruel. By omitting Orsino’s lines that mention his love for Olivia, the film focuses on the possibility of Orsino loving Viola instead. The setting and music used during Viola and Orsino’s scenes in the film creates a romantic atmosphere for the characters while the play portrays a strictly platonic relationship between the two.
As the story continues, the use of setting and music portrays Viola and Orsino’s relationship as not only romantic, but also full of sexual tension, which defies the heteronormative stereotypes of the time, while the play portrays Viola’s love for Orsino as one sided and unlikely to be returned. In the play, Orsino describes to Valentine how he detests Olivia’s disregard for him, as he wonders bitterly if Olivia will finally love him “when the rich golden shaft” of Cupid’s bow has “killed” all her other feelings or emotions (1.1.3738). In the film, Orsino’s musings are made to Viola instead of Valentine, which suggests that Orsino feels comfortable divulging his intimate feelings to her. Additionally, the film places Orsino naked in a bathtub during this conversation while Viola uses a sponge to bathe him, which introduces an element of sexual tension to their relationship that the play does not have. The sexual tension between the characters heightens during the scene in which Feste sings a song about death for Orsino and Viola, where he tells death to “come away” and asks to be “laid” in a coffin of “sad cypress” (2.4.5859). The film uses the same song, but completely changes the atmosphere of the scene by putting Viola, Orsino, and Feste in a dark, deserted barn. Although the lyrics remain sad in the film, it appears as if Feste is serenading the two, and while he is singing, Viola and Orsino’s faces slowly get closer and closer as if they are about to kiss. While the play includes Viola and Orsino listening to Feste sing, the film’s addition of a romantic setting and the suggestion of a kiss adds sexual tension to Viola and Orsino’s relationship. After the song, Feste tells Orsino that his “mind is a very opal,” (4.2.82) a stone that changes color. By comparing Orsino’s mind to an opal right after he apparently almost kisses a man, Feste comments on Orsino’s possible change of mind, and insinuates that he loves men now. Although this line was also in the play, the film’s addition of an almostkiss between Orsino and Viola directs the line at Orsino’s sexuality, a distinction that the play does not touch on. While the play includes Viola’s love for Orsino, Orsino does not reciprocate her feelings until he discovers that she is actually a woman. However, in the film, Orsino begins to fall for Viola even while she is under the facade of Cesario. The film’s use of romantic settings and music challenges the heteronormative views of the era by portraying Orsino’s attraction to Viola despite their apparently shared genders.
Viola and Orsino’s shared activities and physicality portray the two as friends and equals despite Orsino’s higher social rank. Furthermore, the film’s use of setting, music, and other general choices to highlight the romance and sexual tension in Viola and Orsino’s relationship challenges the heteronormative stereotypes of the era. The different interpretation of Viola and Orsino’s relationship that the film presents illustrates the different attitudes towards social hierarchy and homosexuality in Shakespeare’s era versus the twenty first century.