To What Extent Does Shakespeare Present Love as Foolish in the Twelfth Night

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To What Extent Does Shakespeare
Present Love as ‘Foolish’ In ‘Twelfth Night’
Gemma Hanham

William Shakespeare wrote ‘The Twelfth Night’ in the midst of his career, during the early 1600s. The play is considered by most to be one of the author’s greatest comedies. The play explores issues of deception, disguise and the extremities characters will go to as a result of love. Shakespeare presents love as foolish in ‘Twelfth Night’ by using the inadequacy of characters affected by love as a catalyst for the ludicrousity of events which occur. This entertains the audience by portraying the idiocy of love in the play. The manner in which Shakespeare presented characters held importance to the theme ‘foolish love’ as it highlighted, through unfortunate situations, the lack of benefit from love. An example of the negative portrayal of a love struck character would be Orsino.

Orsino is shown as using melodrama to emphasise his sorrow when referring to his unrequited love for Olivia. His exaggerated caricature of a lovesick character is comedic as the audience are made aware of his melodrama. Shakespeare used a character of high respect and status such as the duke, and portrayed him as a character the audience pity as a result of love. Displaying the Duke’s character as someone to pity gives Olivia a sense of empowerment, this ties in with the ‘Twelfth Night’ celebration. Traditionally, a major theme of the Twelfth Night event is the positions of people, for example, a servant and master switch characters in terms of hierarchy. Shakespeare wanted to incorporate this idea into his play through the emasculation of the Duke contrasting with the strength of Olivia. When talking of love in Act 1 Scene 1, Orsino appears to thrive on the drama of his situation, which is perhaps why he overplays it. This suggests to the audience that he dotes on the drama and tragedy of love. This theory is enhanced by his description of love as ‘so full of shapes’ he is seemingly...
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