Twelfth Night

Love as Comedic Energy: Viola and Orsino, Twelfth Night II.iv

Love as Comedic Energy: Viola and Orsino, Twelfth Night II.iv

Chosen extract: Act 2, Scene iv

In Twelfth Night, it is love’s revolutionary potential to inspire awareness, question authority, and disrupt the anti-comic balance that makes love so powerful allows it to be such an agent of change. Robert Maslen, in Shakespeare and Comedy, describes this as love’s “energy”, comparing love to comedy in terms of their shared links with irrationality, disorder, and the bridging of social barriers – all concepts inherently dangerous to the values of the “old age” in which these characters seem to be entrenched. Viola’s relationship with Orsino, and the realization of mutual love after her identity is revealed, epitomizes this sense of love as, like comedy, something unruly and irrational but possessing great power for facilitating growth and change. Yet before the revelation of Viola’s true identity and the play’s resolution, she and Orsino have only one scene onstage together in which the audience is allowed a glimpse into their relationship and the powerful bond between them. Because of this, the audience’s understanding of the relationship between Viola (“Cesario”) and Orsino rests heavily upon II.4, making the scene vital in order to...

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