Twelfth Night

Love Is Love... Or Is It?

In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare illustrates love in various forms and suggests that, like beauty, the true meaning of love exists in the eye of the beholder. Love is seen as bordering on insanity, a frivolous game of ever-changing affections, and the cause of bizarre behavior. Through the characters of Twelfth Night, Shakespeare explores love as an infatuation, a fabrication of the mind, and a conventional form of love. Each kind of loss yields different results and their consequences are as uncertain as the true meaning of love itself.

Some characters are devoted to love, while others are more concerned with the mere concept of it. The play begins with one such character, Duke Orsino, who is madly in love with Olivia. After repeated rejections from Olivia, Orsino says he would like to be so full of love that it would destroy his taste for it forever. He says, "If music be the food of love, then play on. Give me excess of it, that surfeiting, the appetite may sicken and so die." (1.1.1-3) At this point it seems as if his main desire is Olivia, but he goes on to say, "O spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou, that, notwithstanding thy capacity receiveth as the sea, naught enters there, of what validity and...

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