ii.37). Here we see that love does not always bring out the most beautiful emotions in people. It can cause desperation, isolation, frustration, and agitation. These are emotions that can sometimes make us appreciate love even more - if we have the strength to do so.
One of the things we learn from Twelfth Night is that love looks to the inner man. In other words, love discovers the truth because it eventually brings the truth to the surface. As the play moves along, Orsino realizes that he might not love Olivia as much as he thinks he does. He declares his love for her but we all know that he is in love with something else - namely her beauty and her social position. As times progresses, we see that he in more in "lust" with her than anything else. When Orsino experiences true love, he looks to the inner woman of Viola and loves her genuine characteristics. It is also significant to notice that his love for her is gradual - it is not something happens at first glance. Instead, he must get close to Viola and experience the "person." He loves who she is on the inside - her soul, her heart, and her body.
Another thing we learn about love in Twelfth Night is that it is foolish. Malvolio behaves foolishly when it comes to Olivia. He will even wear yellow socks if it means she will glance his way. Olivia behaves foolishly as well when she calls for Malvolio, telling Maria, "If sad and merry madness equal be" (III.iv.14). Olivia's behavior regarding her brother's death is rather foolish and, to prove the point even more, she falls in love with a woman dressed as a man.
Love can also cause complications. Viola's actions from the beginning of the play till the end is the best illustration of how love can be problematic. Love seems to act on its own accord and Viola, no matter how she wants to be in control, has no control whatsoever. While Viola caused some of her own distress, she could never have controlled the coming of love into her appearance when we least expect it. Shakespeare wraps this situation in humor so that Viola does not suffer for long.
Perhaps nothing captures the idea of love more than the clown's song. The words ring true:
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. (II.iii.29-34)
Here a voice is speaking of a lover's journey that ends with a positive note, foreshadowing the resolution of the play. The clown asks the question that plagues the majority of the characters in the play. Love may cause trouble and discomfort at times but it should never be mistaken as something bad. On the contrary, it is something good that should be enjoyed by everyone.
Twelfth Night is a play that does not just focuses on the positive aspects of love - it focuses on all of the emotions that can be associated with love.
The road to love is not always smooth and bump-free but, in the end, it is worth the time it takes to find. Viola, Orsino, and Olivia illustrate how love can be and can make a person crazy. It is fantastical and wild at the same time and while we may curse it, we would never choose a life without it. Twelfth Night demonstrates how love is complicated and beautiful at the same time.
Shakespeare, William. Four Great Comedies. Twelfth Night. New York: Signet Books. 1982.
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