Love is a perennial theme throughout Literature. How has Shakespeare presented love in the play Twelfth Night? How does it compare to love as a theme in other texts.
Love has always been a persistent theme in Literature and an important part of human nature. It comes in many shapes and forms and is often presented in many different ways - varying from text to text. Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare portrays love as bordering on insanity, a frivolous game of ever changing affections and bizarre behaviour. On the other hand, plays such as The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams and Summer of the Seventeenth Doll by Ray Lawler show love in a completely different light.
"For such as I am, all true lovers are, Unstaid and skittish in all motions else, save in the constant image of the creature that is beloved.".
The above quote sums up Twelfth Night's idea of love and this is reiterated throughout the play. Love is presented as a fleeting and fanciful ideal with many of the characters showing this in their actions and speech.
"Nor wit nor reason can my passion hide.".
This comment by Olivia regarding her love of Cesario clearly highlights this idea of passion and chaos that Shakespeare has presented love as.
" she hath abjured the sight and company of men".
The very fact that Olivia so quickly changed her mind because of this "madness" Shakespeare has seen fit to call love is merit to its power and frivolous nature. Far from abjuring the sight and company of Cesario, she lavishes it and requests he(she) comes again. .
"When mine eyes did see Olivia first, methought she purg"d the air of pestilence. .and my desires, like fell and cruel hounds, e'er since pursue me.".
In this opening scene of Twelfth Night we see Orsino pledging his love for Olivia, however, what is made clearer and clearer through the play is that he is not actually in love with her.
"Give me excess of it (love), that surfeiting.