Romance and Love in “Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare

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Attitudes depicted toward romance and/or love in Twelfth Night by Shakespeare reflect many numerous mind-sets presented by movie producers in our society today.  Attitudes projected throughout the play included, but were not limited to concepts from superficial to meditative to true love to what we would this day, consider dreams of, “One day. . . ”

     Although being “lovesick,” as verbalized by Orsino, when he initially proclaimed his love for Olivia, does not qualify as a contemporary term, the meaning of the idiom, “love sick,’ also typifies displays of  teenagers’ various interpretations of love, as well as, some of the older generation when they “fall,” in love.

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     In Act I, after he has fallen in love, part of Orsino’s speech metaphorically relates love with music.  Because Orsino related music and food, and his overindulgence in music to overeating, he wished his desire for love would be killed by listening to an overabundance of music.  Orsino maintained his love was “quick and fresh,” or keen and hungry.  In his mind, love was transformed into a powerful, controlling being.

     The initial attitude presented by Orsino and Olivia, on the other hand, depicted what could be considered the opposite of being controlled by or in love; of being lovesick or being sincere.  The wax of pretentiousness, accompanied by the void of emotional revelation could have birthed the thought familiar, even today:  Does anyone even know the meaning of the word, love?

     In Scene 4 of Act I, after Orsina verbalized his love for Olivia, he asked Viola to intervene for him with Olivia.  At this time, Viola, like Orsina and Olivia, stated the opposite of how she really felt and assured Orsina she would carry out his wishes.  Nevertheless, instead of being honest with him, Viola hid her profession of love for Orsino from him.  Apart from his hearing, however, she admitted to herself that she would rather be Orsino’s wife than try to nurture his romantic relationship with Olivia for him.

      Love is also presented and utilized as a potential weapon by Maria when she successfully planted the love letter she specifically wrote to bait Malvolio, who, in turn, believed Olivia had written the letter and did, in fact, love him.  Other attitudes toward love, mirrored throughout the play suggested love to be something that “bound” them up.  While Orsino was consumed by his love for Olivia, she wrestled with feelings of love for her brother who had died, yet also felt love for Cesario.  Viola battled conflicting feelings regarding her love for Orsino.  Malvolio, on the other hand, was frustrated by his “self” love.

     Still, another attitude toward love suggested it was an avenue for misunderstandings which could breed contempt and confusion, or it could become a road for helping hurting hearts begin to heal.  Admitting or declaring love appeared to be difficult for many of the characters.   By the end of Twelfth Night, conversely, Orsino and Olivia are, in a sense, transformed by Viola, and awakened to some of the manifold meanings of love.

     For one, they dared to look inside themselves and began to see more than their own pretentious misgivings about romance and/or love.  Perhaps, in a sense, they began to understand and reflect what more of today’s movies producers, teens, and even our older generation need to remember:  “. . . Love ‘tis not hereafter . . ..”  (Act II) – but now. . . just like romance.


  • Electronic reference, ClassicNote on Twelfth Night by Shakespeare, W., Retrieved
  • March 22, 2006, from the World Wide Web:

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Romance and Love in “Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare. (2016, Jun 10). Retrieved from

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