John Middleton Murry Has Described Twelfth Night as Having a "Silvery Undertone of Sadness" - How Persuaded Are You by This Description?

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John M. Murry describes Twelfth Night as having a 'silvery undertone of sadness' - this view is held by other critics alike. Kiernan Ryan states how "the spectre of death haunts the romantic protagonists' lives and loves from the start." This can be seen right from the beginning of the play with Orsino's speech. He describes love as a kind of illness which is 'killing' him in a sense; "The appetite may sicken and so die." This in itself gives the play a melancholy atmosphere right from the start. This is unusual in a comedy that there should be mention of death or anything of a dark nature so early on, if not at all. Kiernan Ryan describes Twelfth Night as the “most perfect example of the way in which Shakespeare could make his mood override his fable ... the thing is sad ... with a wistfulness to which Shakespeare could not help giving direct expression.” The time the play was written, Shakespeare had lost one of his twins (his son – Hamlet). And yet in Twelfth Night there is the idea that Sebastian – also a twin – has died, however the two twins, Viola and Sebastian are reunited at the end. This adds to the hidden sadness we are constantly drawn to throughout the play. Orsino seems to be coupling desire with disease and death. It could thus be said that the sadness is "partly engendered by the disposition and discourse of the characters trapped in the romantic plot." Kiernan Ryan. His opening speech sets and defines the emotional atmosphere from the start. His comparison between love and death and the pain of desire are common themes throughout the play. The fact he says love feeds on beauty and thereby devalues it, is proleptic of the plays total structure; "the plotting of the arc of indulgence past limitation to excess whereby sweet temper turns to gall." Olivia bluntly describes love as a "plague" from which she suffers terribly. These metaphors contain an element of violence, further painting the love-struck as victims of some strong force in which they...
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