Twelfth Night, Or, What You Will by William Shakespeare

It's happened to all of us. At one point or another in our lives, we have come to a crossing where we find ourselves tangled up in a mess of people. He said this, she's doing that. They hate us. We hate them. And we're stuck in the middle of the arguments, the fights, the making up. We're the negotiator, the mediator between the two feuding parties over something most likely simple or of a stupid matter. That was the feel of William Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night, Or, What You Will. Through various connections of different characters, all adding to the mess of what has become their story, love has called upon its dear friend fate for a cup of tea while they discuss how to best tamper with lives. Love may appear silly and mundane at times, while at others complex and beautiful, but the message that it conveys through it's puppets is all but the same, a want to be with another, no matter what the circumstances may be.

Viola, the main character of the play, is shipwrecked on Illyria, with the knowledge that her beloved twin brother, Sebastian was taken by the savage waters of the sea. Knowing that she must get a job somewhere, the Captain, who survived with her, tells her of Count Orsino and of Countess Olivia. As Olivia's brother has recently died, she will permit no one in her court. Thus, Viola's only chance is to work for Orsino. In order to do so, she must conceal herself. The Captain is the only soul that knows of her true side, her feminine side in Illyria. While the people of Illyria see and think of her as a man, the tangled mess of love and fate begin their journey in these people's lives.

Count Orsino has fallen deeply for Olivia. When he sends Viola to proclaim his love to his dear Olivia, Olivia does nothing but fall for the disguised Viola. While Olivia is lusting after Viola, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, whom is a friend to Olivia's cousin Sir Toby Belch, is lusting after her. Might as well add another one to the mix then in the form of Olivia's steward Malvovio. With these four different suitors, three excluding the frightened by Olivia's love Viola, Shakespeare includes bawdy humor and conniving plots to keep the play light and frivolous. Feste the Fool offers his loopy words to all who will give an open ear. Maria, Olivia's maid, has a few funny lines at quite often tense moments.


Yet, think of why Olivia has fallen in love with Viola, because of looks. Shakespeare, here, is making a point of how people can appear vain and shallow at times with their head over heels lovers. Looks are what, less than five percent of a person, if that at all? Clearly Shakespeare was a clever fellow in being able to pinpoint this human vanity when it comes to loving a person based on looks. To counteract Olivia's vanity, Shakespeare wrote the role of Sir Andrew, who truly does love Olivia for who she is. Sir Andrew will do anything to have Olivia spare him the time of day, or even to consider his courtship. Thus, it is not surprising to find Sir Andrew, among others, in on a plot to clear the other suitors away from Olivia's eyes so that he, the brave and mighty Sir Andrew, might be seen.

Along with Sir Andrew, Sir Toby, and Maria team up altogether, agreeing upon making Malvovio appearing like a freak in front of his beloved Olivia. Maria writes a false letter, upon which Malvovio receives and acts upon. His dress changes to that of a silly man, his actions try to seem noble but fail horribly. Fueled by Maria, Olivia deems Malvovio a lunatic, thus placing him in jail. Sir Andrew is ecstatic. One man down, two more to go. Here, an important questions appears. Although the letter was indeed false and ill-bred in nature, Malvovio still followed its directions. If his lady demands of him to wear ''yellow stockings and/...see thee ever cross-gartered.' (pg 85), Malvovio will surely do so. Is it out of love or because he must follow the orders of his countess? Part of love is trusting the loved. Although the suggestion to wear yellow ribbons tied around the knees is a bit out there, if Malvovio trusts his lady, trusts her to have him no harm, then he shall surely do so out of love.

With Malvovio out of the way, Sir Andrew proceeds on to a plot to get Viola out of the game that she never wanted a part of. A plan in the form of a duel takes place. Sir Andrew writes a letter of formal challenge, which never makes its way into the hands of Viola. Instead, scheming Sir Toby decides to personally give Viola the message, making Sir Andrew seem valiant in the highest degree. Viola, not wanting her disguise to be broken, tries to reject the challenge, but Sir Toby will hear none of it. On the other hand, Sir Toby conveys to Sir Andrew that Viola is a rascal and the devil of all the fighters. All the while well Olivia is trying to get Viola to accept her love.

The time has come for the duel, only never does it start. Olivia steps in right at the starting and breaks it up, shaming her cousin and attempting to woo Viola. Olivia can be seen in this play as a lovesick little puppy. All she wants, all she desires, all she needs is Viola. All her mind has space for is Viola. Her actions are in pursuing Viola. She does not care for a thing other in the world. Love can strike suddenly and without reason. It demands to be pursued or one's life would become shambles. Olivia is only a puppet in love's deadly game. It can hurt, it can burn, it can change it's mind at any point in time.

But the want, the need, for the beloved is always the same. That deep rooted passion for another that makes one do crazy things is hard to come by. Some people feel love a burden and a nuance. In the opening lines, voiced by Orsino, he pleads ''If music be the food of love, play on./Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,/The appetite may sicken and so die.'' (pg. 7). Here, he is voicing his dreadful lovesickness for Olivia. If only love could be as attainable and simple as music, and that it was never out of reach, that people could given continuous amounts of it so that the lust, the desire for love would be gone. If love was plentiful and achievable, why would it be something that is so sought after? Love is sweet and simple, a never ending desire of the human being. It can be silly, it can be complex, it can be simple, but nonetheless breathtaking beautiful.





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