What is Love in Twelfth Night ?

Twelfth Night opens with the shipwreck between Viola and her twin brother Sebastian. She is sadden by this but find refuge as being the servant to a Duke near by, Orsino dressed as a man. Orsino is overwhelmed with his love for Olivia, a Duchess in Illyria and has sent for her love many times. A clear infatuation is what Orsino feels for Olivia, and he is drowning in his self pity and questioning love and women.

“If music be the food of love, play on.
Give me excess of it that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again, it had a dying fall.
Oh, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odor. Enough, no more.
‘Tis not so sweet now as it was before.
O spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou,
That, notwithstanding thy capacity
Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there,
Of what validity and pitch soe’er,
But falls into abatement and low price
Even in a minute. So full of shapes is fancy
That it alone is high fantastical.”







What is truly love here? Shakespeare writes it so eloquently, and his male characters fall hard into the expectation of the women around, and want love to come to them as swift as music Orsino compares. It is the wooing of his words that he sends to his now named servant, Cesario (Viola dressed asa man) That he thinks will bring Olivia out of the mourning for her brother and into his arms. However, it only brings Cesario closer to him, and he falls in love! He repeats Orisinos words of love though feeling them himself for his master, and showers her in compliments,

“Most radiant, exquisite and unmatchable beauty—I pray you, tell me if this be the lady of the house, for I never saw her. I would be loath to cast away my speech, for besides that it is excellently well penned, I have taken great pains to con it. Good beauties, let me sustain no scorn. I am very comptible, even to the least sinister usage.”

In Cesario’s words is where Olivia falls in love. She is attracted to his passion, though it is from Orsino and she likes the way Cesario articulates his feelings of love. Cesario adores Orsino’s want for love in return, and only wants to fulfill his begging heart.
Who is really in love, infatuated, or in like of whom? Cesario/Viola sees the tenderness in Orsino’s philosophy of love. Olivia is in like with Cesario’s delivery and Orsino is still convinced that Olivia is still the one. This initial standing of feeling that this man and woman have for this one man/woman, is the whole confusion to the play. What we know in the end is that, man gets woman dressed as a man and woman gets man who is actually a man but she thinks is the original man/woman from before who is actually the woman’s twin brother. Where does the love that Olivia has for Cesario go? The Shakespearan world will never know.

PS.
I would have loved to see this play out as a love triangle.

https://cdn2.rsc.org.uk/sitefinity/images/education/Shakespeare-learning-Zone/julius-caesar/smiling-at-grief/twelfth-night-production-photos_-2017_2017_photo-by-manuel-harlan-_c_-rsc_234217.jpg?sfvrsn=d3a10521_4

https://cdn2.rsc.org.uk/sitefinity/images/productions/2017-shows/twelfth-night/Production-photos/twelfth-night-production-photos_-2017_2017_photo-by-manuel-harlan-_c_-rsc_234093.tmb-img-1824.jpg?sfvrsn=4db53721_1