English Literature » Notes » Theme of love in Twelfth Night

Theme of love in Twelfth Night

The key theme in the Twelfth Night play is love. It shows that there are various types of love, such as self-love, deep brotherly love and profitable love. The author has used different characters to show these types of love. This paper looks at the ways in which the characters have been used to exemplify these types of love.

At the beginning of the play, Orsino is seen to love Olivia deeply. This is seen through the declaration of his love at the beginning, “If music be the food of love, play on.” The author shows that Orsino is a lover with an excessive extent. Orsino does not even know Olivia personally and it is doubtable he has even seen her already, yet he is full of romantic clichés for her. This shows that Orsino is just self-delusional and confusing his self-centered love for love for Olivia. He is just concerned with himself and he is in love with the idea of being in love than Olivia. Olivia also has self-love which is shown in the same way as for Orsino. She takes seven years in bereavement which she is determined to offer in memory of her dead brother. This can be taken as a sign of her deep self-love. Olivia has a veiled conduct and a rigorousness of her mourning which portrays her intense but false passion (Shakespeare, 3).

Another type of love that is shown by Shakespeare is that of profitable love for gain. This is aimed at having a profitable marriage. It is portrayed in three instances. Malvolio and Sir Andrew’s love for Olivia and may be Maria’s love for Sir Toby refer to the kind of that is based on personal gain. Maria was able to woo Sir Toby and went up the social ladder because of her well-planned gulling of Malvolio which serves to entertain Sir Toby. Sir Andrew does not succeed in his invasion on this kind of love.

The other type of love that has been portrayed in the play is the brotherly kind of love. This love is between Antonio and Sebastian. In the first meeting, Antonio expresses his love to Sebastian, following Antonio’s rescue. He says, “If you will not murder me for my love, let me be your servant.” Since the incident, Antonio’s behavior is stimulated by such affection which is portrayed through his concise declaration, “I do adore thee so.” Thus, the writer is contrasting this to various types of love in the play. Antonio stands for an almost unselfish homosexual love for a friend who does not realize it (Shakespeare 23, 24).

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