- Published: September 8, 2022
- Updated: September 8, 2022
- Language: English
- Downloads: 25
William Shakespeare wrote the play ‘ Twelfth Night’ to suit his Elizabethan audience, so that is why perhaps there is a lot of confusion in the play, as the Elizabethans loved puzzles. In this time and age we may find it difficult to believe that a woman could be successfully disguised as a man. However in the time in which the play was written, all of the parts in the plays were acted out by men, as women were not allowed to act on stage until the late 1600’s. Therefore all female characters were acted out by young boys.
When Viola is ordered by the Duke Orsino, to express his love for Olivia, she feels rather put out and slightly envious at the thought that the person she has to woo, could be the wife of the man she secretly adores with a deep passion: ‘ Yet a barful strife. Whoe’er I woo, myself would be his wife’. She feels it an inner struggle within herself to put aside her own feelings, so that she can express Orsino’s love most convincingly.
Before even meeting Cesario, Olivia is intrigued and rather impressed at the description that was given to her: ‘ Not yet old to be a man, nor young enough for a boy… He is very well favoured…one would think his mother’s milk was scarce out of him’. Hearing that he is young, handsome and yet a delicate and determined man, she agrees to see him: ‘ Let him approach. Call in my gentlewoman’
By talking to him, Olivia is rather surprised by the way he speaks so boldly and is so outright to her, and she questions him: ‘ What are you? What would you?’
Cesario, being a female himself, can connect well with Olivia. She feels this connection but interprets it wrongly. She finds it romantic and rather appealing. Olivia finds it quite exhilerating to find a man who could connect so well with a woman’s soul: ‘ With adorations, fertile tears, with groans that thunder love, with sighs of fire’. The poetic language that Cesario uses makes Olivia’s heart melt. He says he will, ‘ Write loyal cantons of contemned love, and sing them loud in the dead of night; Halloo your name reverberate hills And make the babbling gossip of the air cry out ‘ Olivia!’. This is the courtly language that would be expected of a suitor.
Olivia is eager to know of what status he was born, most probably because she feels an attraction towards him, but she can only see a future with him if he were of noble birth: ‘ What is your parentage?’ Cesario’s reply makes her unknowingly become more attracted to him. He tells her: ‘ Above my fortunes, yet my state is well: I am a gentleman’. The mysteriousness of this answer appeals to her, as she is used to receiving straight forward answers . It is not long before Olivia feels that she is in love with Cesario, and is quite astounded that it has happened so quickly.
She describes it as a plague, creeping silently and capturing her off guard, making her fall sickeningly in love: ‘ How now? Even so quickly may one catch the plague?’. She is eager to find a reason for him to come back and see her again: ‘ You come to me again To tell me how he takes it’. She even sends Malvolio after him, pretending that he has left his ring behind so that he may come back : ‘ If that the youth will come this way tomorrow, I’ll give reasons for’t. Hie thee, Malvolio’.
Viola, has only one intention, which is to put aside her own feelings for the Duke, so that she can follow the order which was given to him by Orsino. She does, however, think that Olivia acted quite peculiarly when she spoke to her:
‘ Fortune forbid my outside have not charmed her
She made good view of me; indeed so much
That sure methought her eyes had lost her tongue
For she did speak in starts distractedly’. When Cesario or Viola, figures out that Olivia has fallen in love with ‘ him’, she is distressed as well as rather sympathetic. ‘ Poor lady, she were better love a dream,’ he sees the trouble this will cause: ‘ My master loves her dearly, And I, poor monster, fond as much on him; And she, mistaken, seems to dote on me. What will become of this? As I am man, My state is desperate for my master’s love; As I am woman…What thriftless sighs shall poor Olivia breathe’. Viola feels sorry for both herself and Olivia, and is deeply confused as to what she should do: ‘ O time, thou must untangle this, not I; It is too hard a knot for me t’untie’.
Cesario, reluctantly, has to go and see Olivia again by the Duke’s orders.: ‘ Once more, Cesario Get thee to yond same sovereign cruelty’. She is very reluctant to do so, as he doesn’t want to deepen Olivia’s feelings, because she feels it will cause more damage than good.
Cesario talks to Olivia in very courtly and yet poetic language. He is very elegant and speaks rather romantically, which Olivia seems to relish: ‘ Most excellent accomplished lady, the heavens rain odours on you’. ‘ He’ cleverly makes her the centre of attention, and makes it seem that only Olivia is special enough to speak to in such a way: ‘ My matter hath no voice, lady, but to your own most pregnant and vouchsafed ear’. In a way, Cesario meddles with her feelings to try and get her together with the Duke.
Olivia is eager to spend time with Cesario on her own, and is more daring and bold in the way she interacts with him, and even asks him to give her his hand : ‘ Let the garden door be shut, and leave me to my hearing. Give me your hand, sir,’ Cesario flatters her not knowing how his words are deepening her feelings for him: ‘ My duty, madam, and most humble service…Cesario is your servant’s name, fair princess’.
Although Olivia is bolder with her feelings, she shows a weakness and a vulnerable side to her. This is surprising, as Olivia is a very strong minded, independent and an authoritative figure, who is of high born rank: ‘ Give me leave, beseech you. I did send, After the last enchantment you did here, A ring in chase of you. So I did abuse Myself, my servant, and, I fear me, you. Under your hard construction must I sit, To force that on you in a shameful cunning Which you knew none of yours. What might you think?’
Olivia is very eager to hear what Cesario thinks of her and asks for his forgiveness. This is very out of character for her, as she is normally, very sure of herself. ‘ Enough is shown; a cypress, not a bosom, Hides my heart. So, let me hear you speak’. Olivia feels that she has revealed too much of her heart and the feelings of passion contained within it. She is a very secretive person and so revealing her emotions to Cesario is a surprise to her, and it shows how in love she is with him . She is very keen for Cesario to declare his love for her. He, however, only feels sympathy and pity for her: ‘ I pity you’. With this he means he has no feelings for her. Of course, Viola cannot marry another woman and feels sorry for Olivia.
Olivia is desperate for this to mean something and says, ‘ That’s a degree of love’. Cesario tries to make it very clear that he is not interested ‘ for ’tis a vulgar proof That very oft we pity enemies’. Olivia says her feelings are strong but that if she cannot have him he would be a good husband ‘ Be not afraid, good youth, I will not have you; And yet, when wit and youth come to harvest, your wife is like to reap a proper man’.
Olivia has lost all of her composure; she still feels insecure and practically begs Cesario to say what he thinks of her: ‘ Stay. I prithee tell me what thou think’st of me’. Cesario is getting frustrated and vents his frustration in anger, that he cannot love her: ‘ I wish it might, for now I am your fool’. Olivia is infatuated by Cesario and is not put off; in fact the certainty of her feelings for him strengthen: ‘ O, what a deal of scorn looks beautiful In the contempt and anger of his lip.
A murderous guilt shows not itself more soon Than love that would seem hid. Love’s night is noon’. In my opinion, I think her feelings begin to strengthen, because she is used to getting what she wants, and at the thought that Cesarion doesn’t want to be with her, she finds it astounding. Furthermore Cesario talks to her in a way a lot of people would dare not, and this she finds attractive.
Olivia practically throws herself at Cesario’s feet, all pride and dignity lost, and impersonates the poetic language that he uses. She exclaims to him, that even if he does not love her she will always love him. Overall she thinks she has nothing to lose as she has lost all propriety ‘ I love thee so that, maugre all thy pride, Nor wit nor reason can my passion hide’.
Olivia pleads with him saying that there is no reasoning behind love, and that he should not be eager to try and find it ‘ Do not extort thy reasons from this clause, For that I woo, thou therefore hast no cause; But rather reason thus with reason fetter: Love sought is good, but given unsought is better’ Shakespeare uses rhyming couplets, just to emphasize how dramatic and romantic as well as heart breaking this scene is. This would also have appealed to the Elizabethans as they came to hear the language of the plays rather than watch them.
Cesario says he will never come back, but Olivia pleads with him and is very persistent in wanting him to come back ‘ Yet come again; for thou perhaps mayst move That heart, which now abhors, to like his love’.
Viola is much drained after this meeting. All the while that Olivia exclaims her love, Viola is bewildered and quite horrified. She has tried to make it very clear to Olivia that ‘ he’ is not interested and yet she still persists with great stubbornness: ‘ Cesario’ several times tried to tell her he was not what he seemed ‘ I am not what I am’. She does not want to see her again, but has to obey the Duke’s orders.
Olivia seems quite embarrassed that she revealed her feelings so openly and yet she feels slight anger. She compares Cesario’s heart to that of stone: ‘ I have said too much unto a heart of stone, And laid mine honour too unchary out: There’s something in me that reproves my fault, But such a headstrong potent fault it is That is but mocks reproof.” She tries to tell him how passionate she feels that she cannot help herself from acting in such an emotional way. Cesario tries to persuade Olivia to see what the Duke feels for her: ‘ With the same ‘ haviour that your passion bears Goes on my master’s griefs’.
But Olivia remains stubborn, and instead gives Cesario a small picture of her, hoping that he may fall in love with her: ‘ Wear this jewel for me, ’tis my picture’. She asks him if there is anything that he could do for her. Cesario asks her to love the Duke: ‘ Nothing but this- your true love for my master’. Olivia is trying desperately to win Cesario’s heart, but Viola is trying to follow the order which was given to her by the Duke: ‘ How with mine honour may I give him that which I have given to you?’ she tries to make Cesario understand that she would never be able to love the Duke when she loves him. We learn how deeply attracted she is to him, when she says she would go to hell for him: ‘ Well, come again tomorrow. Fare thee well. A fiend like thee might bear my soul in hell’. She thinks the more he visits her the more his heart will soften for her.
When Viola’s brother Sebastian appears, there is a lot of confusion as he is mistaken for being Cesario. Olivia, thinking that he is Cesario asks him to marry her. Although confused, Sebastian counts his lucky stars :’ What relish is this? How runs the stream? Or am I mad, or else this is a dream.’. When the Duke comes to visit Olivia to persuade her, she calls Cesario her husband, to both the Duke and Viola’s surprise. Cesario is confused and bewildered; which also makes Olivia feel confusedm and this affords great entertainment for the audience.
Shakespeare uses alliteration ‘ With such a suffering, such a deadly life’ most likely because it helps draw attention to these words and to create the rhythm of a line. It also makes the words more dramatic. In the end, when the plot is unraveled, Olivia declares Viola her sister: ‘ A sister, you are she’. Now the two women can live together is a more peaceful way.
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