Sunday, December 25, 2011

The depth of love and the fine line between romance and imagination, as introduced by Orsino and conveyed by the character of Cesario in William Shakespeare's, Twelfth night.

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The depth of love and the fine line between romance and imagination, as introduced by Orsino and conveyed by the character of Cesario in William Shakespeares, Twelfth night.


How deep is love? at what point does love become distorted to fit one’s own disillusioned realities. These are two very important questions raised by William Shakespeare in perhaps one of his finest comedies, twelfth night or, what you will. The play opens with a speech given by the lovesick and unhappy Orsino, which defines the ideas of love that Shakespeare was trying to convey. Orsino states that “if music be the food of love, play on” ( Line 1), asking the musicians to play so much musical ‘love food’ that he may overdose and therefore cease his appetite to desire love and longer. Through these words Shakespeare creates an image of love being something unwanted, unexpected and a complex emotion that is not easily avoided.


Many characters of the play cannot understand the complexities love seem to bring, viewing it as somewhat of a disease that attacks its victims in a serious of uncontrollable desires. Olivia describes love as a “plague” ( Line 65) of which she cannot rid herself, while Orsino declares love to be an “appetite” ( Line ) at which he cannot satisfy and his desires “fell and cruel hounds” ( Line 1). It becomes evident throughout the play that these melodramatic and self centred characters are far more concerned with announcing of the ‘pain’ and rejection they receive from love, then discovering if the emotions they posses are in fact true love or a simple attraction. Both Olivia and Orsino are too entangled in chasing the objects of their affection that they are deceived into believing that the superficial love they feel is a mistaken true love. Orsino persists to desire Olivia even though he never once speaks to her during the course of the play, whilst Olivia mirrors Orsino’s self indulgence by creating her own fantasy of lovesickness at which she pines for Cesario, a man who is in fact a woman. Their egotism is apparent at the end of the play with the ease at which they switch love interests. Orsino is happy to admit his love to Viola (Cesario) and Olivia gladly exchanges a pretend man for Sebastian, Viola’s twin brother. By Olivia and Orsino quenching their “appetites” of their initial desires which were no longer “sweet as [they were] before”( Line 8), Shakespeare suggests that the depth at which these characters viewed love was deceiving, as love results in somewhat of a game then anything else.


The second part of Orsino’s speech further complicates his image of love, as he comments about the relationship between romance and imagination. “so full of shapes is fancy/ that it alone is high fantastical” ( Line 14-15), relating the idea of overpowering love, “fancy,” to that of imagination, “fantastical.” This raises another important question by Shakespeare; does love have more to do with the lover’s imagination of their loved ones than the actual reality of the person? Shakespeare creates the character of Cesario, the male version of Viola, to depict how malleable and self delusional human romantic attraction is. By attiring herself in mens clothing , Viola plays upon the emotions of whom she comes in contact with , forming a bizarre love triangle between herself, Orsino and Olivia.


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By assuming the false identity of a man Viola deceives Olivia into believing she in love with Cesario when in fact she has fallen in love with the man she had created in her mind. Upon realizing of Olivia’s affection, Cesario (Viola) remarks that she would do better to love a dream, as that is all Cesario is. Cesario is a false creation of Olivia’s mind, a romance she has created purely from the image of a man she believed exsisted. Olivia continues to pursue Cesario even after countless rejections as she is blinded from seeing the truth behind Viola’s disguise. Cesario tells Olivia “That you do think you are not what you are” (Line 15), Olivia replying very ironically that “ If I think so, I think the same of you” (Line 154), not realizing how correct she is. Cesario is not what “he” is yet Olivia continues believing in her romantic delusions. On their second meeting Olivia claims “ I would you were as I would have you be” (Line 156), once again showing that the love Olivia displays for Cesario is one which she reshapes to fit her own realities, urging Cesario to be what she would want him to be, even though it is impossible.


Orsino, too subconsciously falls in love with Viola, often commenting on Cesario’s beauty and forming a close bond through the discussion they share.


Orsino is blinded by Olivias disguise, his own self involvement, stoping him from seeing the romance that exists between himself and Viola. Orsino, through his oblivion, contradicts what he initially speaks of at the beginning of the play. Even though he talks of the relationship between romance and imagination, his imagination stops him from seeing the romance he feels for Olivia, as he believes her to be a man.


Is is therefore evident, through creating Cesario, Shakespeare uses the character as his means of expressing his views on love. Both Olivia and Orsino are fooled by the disguise of Viola, forcing them to rethink their initial perceptions of the depth of love and the fine line between “fancy” and imagination .


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