Critical Analysis Of Twelfth Night

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Throughout Act 1 love is the backbone of the play, with almost every character falling in love or at least falling in love with the idea of love. Twelfth Night gains most of its comical force by satirizing these characters; for example Orsino. Common themes throughout Act 1 are love and desire, melancholy and madness.

In Act 1 Scene 1 the play opens with Orsino’s speech which is playful and melancholy, but has abrupt changes of mood “If music be the food of love play on”. This opening line is mostly straight pentameter with a spondee which emphasises Orsino’s command; however by being written in iambic pentameter, not a sonnet, this shows how Orsino is misguided in love. Orsino’s comparison of love with food shows how much he needs love to
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Cesario’s response clearly identifies his cleverness, skill and how he is a natural poet. Olivia is so drawn in because Cesario’s type of poetry is new and spontaneous in comparison to Orsino’s cliched poetry (once again referring to the idea that Orsino is misguided in love). Here Shakespeare has used comic relief in this scene as Orsino himself would never live in a makeshift hut as he is ‘above’ that. Once Cesario leaves Olivia wants to know how one “so quickly may catch the plague?” This metaphor contains an element of violence, further painting the idea that it physically hurts Olivia to love and in an extreme case it may make her want to die.

Overall, Shakespeare has presented love as a complex theme throughout Act 1 by consistently showing how love can either end in happiness or hurt. Many of the character throughout the play seem to view love as a curse placed onto people and as something that causes indescribable pain; whereas others view love as something that brings them happiness and joy. These two ideas greatly contrast each other exemplifying how complex love really is. Furthermore, the play as a whole shows how love cannot jump over every hurdle placed in front of it and when it fails to make it over that hurdle the characters feel great
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