Wednesday, November 20, 2013


True or False Love

In William Shakespeare’s Twelfth night, the common theme of love is expressed in a multitude of different ways through the main characters.  The love of the Duke, Olivia and Viola will be focused on even though Shakespeare has many characters fall in love in this play.  Though the love the three characters have are very different from one another.  The Duke’s love for Olivia is the shallowest.  He sends his servants to profess his love for Olivia instead of visiting her himself.  He just sits around all day and thinks about her.  Olivia’s love is more genuine but still not completely true because he falls in love with a woman who is actually a man.  Olivia loves Viola who is disguised as Cesario.  The last and most genuine form is Viola’s love for the Duke.  She loves him but still travels to Olivia’s house to confess the Duke’s love for her.  She is truly loyal to the Duke.  Shakespeare’s theme of love draws distinctions between what is true love and what is not.     

The first character to express love in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is Duke Orsino.  His love for Olivia is one of the first words we hear out of the Duke.  He is talking to Curio when he says, “O, when mine eyes did see Olivia first, methought she purged the air of pestilence.”  He is saying that Olivia rids the air of disease because of how beautiful she is.  It is a very strong statement to make for a person that the Duke barely sees.  We find out that the Duke sends people to express his love for Olivia.  This is why the  Duke’s love for Olivia is the least genuine love.  If the Duke really loved Olivia, he would be at her door wanting to see her face and be in her presence.  He prefers to sit on rose petals and listen to music while thinking about her.  He also faces a challenge in regards to his love for Olivia.  Olivia’s brother just died and she has vowed not to love anyone else for seven years.  This does not discourage the Duke; it makes him love her more.  So this raises the question of does the Duke only want what he cannot have.  I believe so.  His behavior does not follow traditional love because he never sees her; he consistently gets rejected and is told she will not love anyone for seven years, which makes him even more in love with her. 

            The next person to fall in love is Olivia who falls in love with Cesario.  This love is slightly more genuine than the love the Duke has for Olivia but still Olivia’s love for Cesario is not genuine love.  First of all, Olivia is love with a woman who is disguised as a man.  Cesario is actually a female named Viola who is dressed up and is working for the Duke.  The first time Olivia meets Cesario is when Cesario is sent to Olivia’s house to proclaim the Duke’s love for Olivia.  Olivia falls in love with Cesario because of the way he eloquently describes what he would do if he were in love.  The ironic part of this scene is that Cesario or Viola is actually describing the love she feels for the Duke and it is these very feelings that lead Olivia to fall in love with Cesario.  Cesario says, “Make me a willow cabin at your gate, and call upon my soul within the house; write loyal cantons of contemned love and sing them loud even in the dead of night.”  Olivia feels Cesario’s deep passion and mistakenly falls in love with a woman.  If you fall in love with the disguise of someone, then you are not falling for an actual person and therefore it cannot be true love.  Olivia sees Cesario and wants to be around him, which is more than the Duke does but she still does not achieve genuine love. 

            The last and most genuine form of love is Viola’s love for the Duke.  Viola, who was saved at sea after being shipwrecked, decides to dress up as a man and work for the Duke.  The Duke immediately likes Viola and sends her on special trips to profess his love for Olivia.  Viola’s love is not evident until she says on an aside, “yet, a barful strife! Whoe’er I woo, myself would be his wife.”  Viola professes her want to be the Duke’s wife but still goes to Olivia’s house to try and convince her to love the Duke.  Viola’s loyalty to the Duke is why Viola’s love is the most genuine.  She wants to make the Duke truly happy and is even willing to give up her love for him.  This sacrifice Viola makes does not just happen once but happens multiple times because the Duke sends Viola on many trips to Olivia’s house.  We also see this is the most genuine form of love because of the way Viola described so beautifully what she would do if she was in love.  If she thinks that way about the Duke and sees him all the time, there must be true passion behind her words and thoughts. 
            So while sitting in the daily session of mediation, I was once again faced with a conflict.  I have admittedly been in, what I think was, love once.  The only thing is I am not sure it was love because the way Shakespeare describes it you are supposed to be together forever.  So I started thinking what form of love would fit into.  I certainly was not the Duke but then again I am not sure I was on Viola’s level either.  It was an interesting time of thought for me, which concluded that I landed between Olivia and Viola but leaning towards Viola more.

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