The Twelfth Night - Development of Themes

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‘Analyse how the writer develops a significant idea or theme in an extended txt you have studied.’

Many say William Shakespeare is the most influential writer in all of English literature with works hailed by Elizabeth I, James I and literary luminaries such as Ben Jonson. Shakespeare wrote the critically acclaimed Twelfth Night in 1601 during the middle of his career. This play incorporates illusion, deception, disguises, madness and shows the extraordinary things that love with cause us to do. Shakespeare cleverly develops the theme of ‘love as a cause of suffering’ through language techniques, motifs such as Madness and disguise and through the idea of superficial love.

Twelfth Night is classified as a romantic comedy as romantic love is a key idea in the play, however Shakespeare also approaches from the angle that love can cause pain. This is done through describing love with use of negative connotations. “If music be the food of love, play on; 
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, 
The appetite may sicken, and so die.” Orsino describes his love as an appetite that he wants to quench but cannot. Many characters including Orsino claim that they suffer the pain of love and Shakespeare shows us this through the negative connotations in their dialogue. Olivia demonstrates love as a “plague” from which she suffers and readers can link this to the bubonic plague, which was a serious problem in 16th century England. Shakespeare uses these metaphors throughout the play to paint the picture of love in a negative way as a source of pain and suffering. This helps the readers distinguish between the ‘romantic love’ and the significant idea of love as a cause of suffering.

Malvolio is judged by critics to be one of the most complex and fascinating characters in twelfth night. At first glance Malvolio is simple, proper servant who loves to spoil fun however he begins to unravel when Sir Toby and Maria plot his downfall through the forging of a letter from his...
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