True love sees the soul. True love requires recognition of the noble inner qualities of the beloved as well as the outward qualities. Duke Orsino thinks he loves Olivia. But it soon becomes apparent that he loves her primarily for her beauty, not her nobility of soul. In other words, he is infatuated with her looks and charm. However, he gradually falls in love with Viola after her inner qualities emerge while she is disguised as a man. His love for her is not complete until she doffs her disguise and reveals that she is a beautiful woman. Orsino then loves her heart, soul, and body—that is, spiritually and physically. Olivia's love for Sebastian evolves in a similar way. She begins by admiring Sebastian's noble qualities as mirrored by his twin sister Viola, disguised as the male messenger Cesario. But her love is incomplete until Sebastian arrives with the same noble qualities of Viola—but in a male body. Love (brotherly and romantic) is foolish at times. For example, Olivia goes to ridiculous lengths to mourn her dead brother, then falls in love with Viola disguised as a man. Pompous Malvolio, meanwhile, wears yellow stockings with crossed garters to woo Olivia. Love vexes and presents pitfalls. Orsino, Viola, and Olivia, undergo distress and suffer setbacks of one kind or another before being united with his or her beloved. Malvolio, of course, falls into a pitfall and never gets out. Love ultimately triumphs. Despite all the obstacles they face, people in love eventually unite through persistence. Appearances and first impressions can be deceiving. Outward appearances and first impressions mislead the main characters in one way or another—until the truth surfaces in Act V. Carpe diem (seize the day). Feste chides his employer, Olivia, for continuing to mourn for her brother long after he is dead. He realizes that one of the main purposes of life is to live. In a song he sings for Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, he sums up his philosophy: What is love? 'tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What's to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty;
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth's a stuff will not endure. (2.3.23)
Priggish Malvolio becomes the brunt of a practical joke after he attempts to interdict the merriment of Feste, Aguecheek, and Sir Toby Belch. It appears that Shakespeare intended to use Malvolio to satirize the somber spirit of Puritanism during the Elizabethan era. In fact, the characters in the play openly refer to him as a Puritan, as in this dialogue: MARIA Marry, sir, sometimes he is a kind of Puritan.
SIR ANDREW O, if I thought that I'ld beat him like a dog! SIR TOBY BELCH What, for being a Puritan? thy exquisite reason, dear knight? SIR ANDREW I have no exquisite reason for't, but I have reason good enough. MARIA The devil a Puritan that he is, or any thing constantly, but a time-pleaser; an affectioned ass, that cons state without book and utters it by great swarths: the best persuaded of himself, so crammed, as he thinks, with excellencies, that it is his grounds of faith that all that look on him love him; and on that vice in him will my revenge find notable cause to work. (2.3.151-160)
Olivia's servant, Fabian, also bemoans Malvolio as a killjoy. After Sir Toby Belch asks Fabian whether he would enjoy shaming Malvolio in some way, Fabian replies, "I would exult, man: you know, he brought me out o'/ favour with my lady about a bear-baiting here" (2.5.6-7). Bear-baiting was a popular bloodsport in Shakespeare's London. In Act III, Scene II, Aguecheek denounces Puritanism in general when he says, "I had as lief be a Brownist as a politician" (3.2.28). A Brownist was a follower of Robert Browne (1550-1633), a Puritan leader. Ingredients of the Comedy .Shakespeare mixes Twelfth Night with a potpourri of ingredients to achieve his comic effect—a set of twins, some situation comedy, a dash...