Critical Analysis of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

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William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is a comedy, first published in 1623. Love is a key aspect of Shakespeare’s comedies in which self-identity is found through the development of love from infatuation to acknowledgement of character. Orsino is the epitome of Shakespeare’s transformation of self. In the beginning of the play, Orsino is self-absorbed and head-over-heels for Olivia. In this stage of love we see Orsino’s infatuation and selfishness in his feelings of love. As the play moves on, Viola comes into Orsino’s life and we see glimpses of Orsino’s understanding of what love is and how a person should feel with love. By the end of the play, Orsino realizes his self worth through his love for Olivia and how love really feels to care about a person’s heart and soul.

At first, Orsino is in a self-centered infatuation with Olivia. We can tell that he wants to be in love, but his notions of love are all about his thoughts of love, not the person of his love interest. “So full of shapes is fancy/That it alone is high fantastical” (1.1, 14-15), this explains that Orsino finds love fantastic and nothing can compare with love, or in his case infatuation. Orsino also shows his fascination with love itself when he states,

If ever thou shalt love,
In the sweet pangs of it remember me;
For such as I am all true lovers are,
Unstaid and skittish in all motions else
Save the constant image of the creature
That is beloved (2.4, 15-20).
In this passage Orsino doesn’t even speak of the one he loves, he just states that he is the epitome of one in love. Another quality we find in Orsino’s love is that it is purely by the attractiveness of the one he is in love with. The first thing Orsino says about Olivia is, “O, when mine eyes did see Olivia first,/Methought she purged the air of pestilence” (1.1, 20-21). We later see Orsino again speaking of attractiveness of women, “For women are as roses, whose fair flow’r,/Being once displayed, doth fall that very...
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