Love And Love In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

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In the academic literature on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, one of the key questions is Viola’s own understanding of what love means. Much of the romantic intrigues that Viola becomes entangled in is clearly created by the situation in which she finds herself, necessitating that she disguises herself as a male. The play famously tells the tale of Viola, who loves Duke Orsino, who is in love with Countess Olivia, while Olivia falls in love with Viola, thinking she is a man. However, Viola’s understanding of love is perhaps just as complex as this love triangle along with her own position essentially as between genders. In other words, Viola does not exhibit an understanding of love defined by stereotypes of male love or female love, and her male disguise symbolizes this idea. In this regard, scholars such as David Schalkwyk have written that “Viola, herself,…show more content…
Schalkwyk is correct to the extent to which he means here that Viola’s idea of love is not rooted in gender, in biological natures of the body, but rather by the social performance of the body. Thus, Viola’s understanding of true love, as I will argue in this paper, is not conditioned by gender roles, but the opposite; gender roles prevent love. This is, I would say, Viola’s enlightened experience of love throughout the play.
As the story of Twelfth Night unfolds, the reader is introduced to the love triangle and the problem of mistaken gender identity at the basis of the main character 's dilemma. Viola summarizes the entire problem in the following lines from Act 2, Scene 2: “And she mistaken seems to dote on me. What will become of this? As I am a man, My state is desperate for my master’s love; As I am a woman – now alas the day! What thriftless sighs shall poor Olivia
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