Twelfth Night or What You Will is a romantic comedy written by William Shakespeare in 1601. This play features many themes and issues that flow not only through small parts of the play, but throughout the whole piece. A lot of the themes that are presented contribute to the plot of the play and help the audience or reader understand the play further. Twelfth Night is a very complex and intriguing play filled with themes of cross dressing, love triangles, foolishness, greed, love and madness, and all of these themes fit together to tell one amazing story.Shakespeare had a way of approaching and expressing his opinion through his pieces of literature. He opens Act 3 Scene 1 by calling words whores and therefore giving off the feeling that words are often misinterpreted into what is most convenient for the listener.
This type of dialogue goes down between the Fool and Cesario (Viola) for the first part of the act thus establishing the mood for the rest of scene 1. Shortly after, Viola, who is disguised as Cesario, is sent by Orsino once again to try and convince Olivia to accept him as her lover. Olivia on the other hand, tells Cesario to not mention Orsino again seeing as she doesn’t wish to have anything to do with him. Instead Olivia confesses her love for Cesario and explains how the ring left behind by Cesario during Act 1 was all part of a mischievous act made up by Olivia in order to give Cesario something that would show her affection for him. She explains how it was all done out of pure love and pleads his forgiveness since she believes that he must think the worst of her. In reply, Cesario simply says he is sorry for not being able to love her back and upon his response, Olivia proceeds to wish him the best in the future by saying that his future wife will be very lucky to have him.
This reaction then causes Cesario to begin leaving but Olivia once again interferes and pleads him to at least tell her how he feels about her after her love confession. Cesario responds by saying that he believes she is not showing who she really is, to which Olivia answers with, “If you think so, I think the same of you” (Line 137). This ending of the scene includes dramatic irony because little does Olivia know that she is actually right, indeed Cesario isn’t who he appears to be, and instead it is Viola who she is speaking with.
There are multiple ways to break down this act of the play, for example through this portion of the scene we are able to see how the theme of gender and cross dressing is mixed into the play and it is important to note this because it has a great effect on what goes on in the play. It is Viola who is dressed as a young man named Cesario and the chaos begins when Olivia, whom everyone is in love with, falls in love with this false character. Even worse: when Viola is dressed as Cesario, she looks identical to her twin brother Sebastian who appears to be lost at sea but will later on come in to cause additional complications to this hectic love circle. Another way to further understand what happens is by analyzing the dialogue and interpreting what is truly said. An instance in which you could break down the dialogue would be when Olivia asks Cesario what his name is and he (she) responds by saying he is Cesario and that he is her servant. Olivia denies this n says that he is only the servant of Orsino but Viola answers with, “And he is yours, and his must needs be yours.
Your servant’s servant is your servant, madam.” (Lines 99-100). On a first look this phrase could go unnoticed since it seems like a general reply. Though once you put it in context with Shakespeare’s era and forms of speech you notice that Cesario’s metaphors about being her servant can connect the idea of a servant and the noble and how they could be bound by love. Once you interpret it this way you can begin to understand why Olivia decided to confess her love for him specifically during this moment. In Act 3 Scene 2 the plot thickens between Sir Andrew and Cesario.
The scene begins with Sir Andrew telling Sir Toby and Fabian that he is planning to leave because it is obvious that he cannot win Olivia’s love when she is so obviously in love with Cesario. Feeling defeated he makes his decision to leave, but Sir Toby is determined to keep him and his money in Illyria. Sir Toby has been spending Sir Andrew’s money and he wants to continue but he cannot if Andrew is gone, Fabian agrees with Toby and works to keep him in Illyria.
In his efforts to convince Andrew, Toby and Fabian suggest that Olivia is only trying to make him jealous and he needs to show off his manliness to get her back, in line 32 Sir Toby says, “There is no love-broker in the world can more prevail in man’s commendation with woman than report of valor.” (Line 32) To show off his masculinity, Sir Andrew decides to challenge Cesario to a duel to Olivia’s love and devotion. Upon deciding this Andrew leaves to write a letter to challenge him and Maria enters. Maria tells of Malvolio and how hilariously he is acting. She says, “If you desire the spleen, and will laugh yourself into stitches, follow me. Yond gull Malvolio is turned heathen, a very renegado; for there is no Christian, that means to be saved by believing rightly, can ever believe such impossible passages of grossness.
” (Line 60) She tells them to come and see how ridiculous and mad he seems to all who know nothing of the letter. In many of the scenes that we see between Sir Andrew and Sir Toby they are intended for comic relief but the intent of this scene is not only to provide comic relief but to further the plot and advance the story. There are numerous themes displayed throughout the entirety of Twelfth Night but in this scene particularly there are the themes of the love of money, ambition corrupting lives, masquerading, and foolishness. In this scene particularly Toby and Fabian’s love of money drives them to convince Andrew to do something insane. This also creeps into the territory of ambition corrupting lives. These two men are so eager to climb the social ladder that they are willing to send their friend into a duel that is unreasonable and unjustified because Olivia doesn’t love him. They set their friend up for heartache and actual physical pain because they don’t want to do without his money.
Although Andrew may deserve what is coming to him because he was the one who was foolish enough to believe the lies that they were telling him. Foolishness is ever present through this scene not only in Sir Andrew’s behavior but also through Toby and Fabian who only want money and status, Maria who is making Malvolio look crazy for her own enjoyment, and Malvolio who actually believed the letter and followed its instructions. Masquerading is a critical part of the main story line and every plot line connected to it and Act 3 Scene 2 is no exception. We see how Malvolio is wearing a different “mask” because Maria disguised herself as Olivia. And we can also see that Andrew is misled in thinking that Viola is a man and Olivia also believes her disguise. “Twelfth Night, Jan. 5, the vigil or eve of Epiphany, so called because it is the 12th night from Christmas, counting Christmas as the first. In England, Twelfth Night has been a great festival marking the end of the Christmas season, and popular masquerading parties are typical entertainment.
” (“Twelfth Night”) Based on this quote we can see that the title could be connected to the amount of masks the characters seem to wear. Many scholars believe that the title has to do with the fact that it was performed during Twelfth Night celebrations, but it is probable that it was named this because of the masquerade parties that were common for Twelfth Night festivities. Act 3 Scene 3 is about Sebastian and Antonio. In this scene they decide to stay in Illyria, even though Antonio is threatened by Duke Orsino’s men because in the past, he and Orsino engaged in a sea fight and he hurt him and his men. Antonio explains this to Sebastian by saying, “Once, in a sea-fight, ‘gainst the count his galleys I did some service; of such note indeed…” (Line 26) Through this scene we see his fear of something happening to him at the hands of Orsino’s men, but he still decides to stay in Illyria for Sebastian. Antonio gives Sebastian his purse and when Sebastian asks why he says, “Haply your eye shall light upon some toy you have desire to purchase…” (Line 44). In this quote he is saying that if Sebastian sees anything he likes he should by it with Antonio’s money.
Through this scene we are able to see Antonio and Sebastian’s relationship in a different light. It starts to border on love rather than friendship. There are many questions among scholars debating whether or not the relationship between Olivia and Viola would be seen as having homosexual tendencies. And just like these questions there are suggestions of a deeper relationship between Antonio and Sebastian. In fact Stephen Orgel describes them as “the only overtly homosexual couple in Shakespeare except for Achilles and Patroclus” (Orgel 51).
With this relationship the sexuality of Shakespeare is questioned because many believe that over half of his sonnets were written about a young man, not woman. Twelfth Night marks a sort of turning point in Shakespeare’s career. Before Twelfth Night, he wrote many of his popular plays that were more romantic and comedic. After Twelfth Night, he wrote some of his most popular and intriguing works such as, The Tempest, King Lear, Hamlet, Othello, and even Antony and Cleopatra. His attitude seemed to change at this point in his career and it could possibly have to do with the homosexual themes in Twelfth Night. Another theme throughout this scene is overcoming adversity for love. Even though Antonio knows he could easily be killed in Illyria because of his history with the Duke, he is still staying because of Sebastian. It is obvious that they have a strong relationship, whether it is romantic or not doesn’t matter, and this relationship and love is what keeps Antonio in a dangerous place.
This theme of overcoming for love is so prevalent through the entire play with Malvolio and his love for Olivia, Viola and her love for Orsino, Olivia and her love for Cesario, and many more examples. Often the love between characters is forbidden or taboo, and yet the love still blooms. Just like Orsino was in love with Cesario before he even knew that he was actually a she, he just saw it as a close friendship even though it was much more. While there are so many examples of this theme, Antonio and Sebastian are one of the best because their closeness and love for one another is forbidden and yet they still stay with one another. Even though they aren’t together in the end in a romantic way, they are still just as close. Throughout act 3 scene 4 many different themes are presented to the audience or the reader.
Some of these themes are presented to humor the audience/reader and some of these themes are presented to show the real message behind the play. A few examples of the themes shown in act 3 scene 4 are madness and pining for love. The first theme in act 3 scene 4 that is presented is madness. Olivia and Maria think Malvolio has gone mad. In the beginning of act 3 scene 4, the text says, “Where’s Malvolio? He is sad and civil And suits well for a servant with my fortunes.” (page 1226, line 5-6) This is saying how Olivia is looking for Malvolio because she says he is very serious and she needs someone who is very serious while she is mourning. Then Malvolio enters and is acting strange. It says, “.
.he does nothing but smile.” (Page 1126, line 11) They called Malvolio during a sad time and all he is doing is smiling. They ask him why he is smiling when they called for him during a sad time, and he starts talking crazy. They ask him what is wrong with him and why he is talking crazy and he just continues to talk crazy, ignoring the question.
Another reason they think he’s crazy is because he’s is wearing yellow stockings and is cross-gartered. Olivia and Maria don’t know why Malvolio is acting this way. Olivia ask Malvolio what was the matter with him and Malvolio replied with, “Not black in my mind, though yellow in my legs. It did come to his hands, and commands shall be executed. I think we do know the sweet Roman hand.” (1127, lines 25-27) He is saying that although he is wearing yellow on his legs he feels well.
Malvolio is also saying that he found the letter or that the letter was written to him so he must obey the commands that were written in the letter. In the last line of this quote, Malvolio is saying that they both know who wrote the letter. He thinks Olivia wrote the letter but Olivia doesn’t even know the letter exist. Olivia asks Malvolio if he should go to bed since he was acting so strange. He replies with a crazy comment about coming to Olivia.
Malvolio continues to ask questions that relate to the letter but Olivia is confused. He continues to repeat the letter even though Olivia and Maria are confused and don’t understand what he is talking about. Olivia asks Maria to take Malvolio to her cousin Toby so he can help Malvolio with his madness problem.
Even though he hasn’t really gone mad, he’s just following a letter that he thought was sent from the woman he loves. The second theme presented was pining for love. Malvolio is in love with Olivia. He thinks Olivia wrote him a letter which told him to do crazy things. Shortly after Malvolio enters, he has a conversation with Olivia and Maria. During that conversation he quotes phrases from the letter that he thought Olivia wrote him. “Convinced by a forged love letter from Olivia to be surly with the servants, to smile constantly in Olivia’s presence, and to wear yellow stockings cross-gartered (all of which Olivia abhors), the capering Malvolio prompts Olivia to conclude that he has lost his wits and orders his confinement in a dark cell.
” (Burt) This explains why he was acting strangely, the constant smiling, the random phrases or quotes he was saying, and why he was dressed the way that he was. He was doing this all to get Olivia’s love and attention. Olivia and Maria don’t know about the fake letter, so they are confused on what is going on.
Maria ask Malvolio a question and he says that he doesn’t have to answer to her because she is “below” him. Twelfth Night is a curious and fascinating play that highlighted themes such as cross dressing, love triangles, foolishness, greed, love and madness. These themes were a way that Shakespeare could express his opinions and thoughts through this piece and add a sense of romance and comedy. Shakespeare was able to take a celebrated day and turn it into something that anny audience could enjoy while also still keeping the integrity of it.
This play has been highly praised by critics and has brought major controversy and challenging theories.