Thursday, October 27, 2016

Love and Foolishness in "Twelfth Night"

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     After reading some of "Twelfth Night" I think there is so much in it that could be analyzed. The second alternate title for the play is "What You Will," which is almost Shakespeare saying, "get whatever you will out of this comedy." With its similarity to stories like “She’s the Man,” this play offers the ridiculousness of love.
     One of the things I noticed right away was not just the humor, but where the humor was coming from. When Viola disguises herself as a eunuch, and then is described as feminine and compared to women, we get situational humor. The same holds true for when Olivia falls in love with Viola. But there are characters in the play who are just funny, as well. Sir Toby is a drunk, and much of what he says is comical. He plays on words and has Andrew dance for him, but is still able to say profound things: "What dost thou mean? Is it a world to hide virtues in?"
     Then there is the Fool. He is just returning from a trip and needs to get into Olivia’s good graces. The first thing that happens is not in his favor:
            Olivia. Take the Fool away
Fool. Do you not hear fellows? Take away the Lady.
I laughed at this part, but he goes on to explain how Olivia really is being a fool for her prolonged mourning.
     Meanwhile, Orsino is pining after Olivia. And it seems to be all he does, despite Olivia’s rejections. The play seems to point out how love is what makes people foolish, not the usual things, like being drunk or actually being a Fool. This comparison of love and foolishness is fascinating. For further research I would look up articles that have probably been written about the subject, but also I might look at other plays by Shakespeare that have similar tones. I would especially look at his other comedies to see if they might have similar themes that Shakespeare liked to explore.
     I'll mention one more direction I could go in my research. "Twelfth Night" includes a lot of pagan symbols, which doesn't strike me as odd in a story full of deception. It reminds me somewhat of some of those old greek mythological stories. I might look into the images used in the play and see how they relate to the mythology.


  1. Interesting connection between love and foolishness! Chris and I noticed in The Merchant of Venice that love seemed to be one of the only factors that affects the moods of Shakespeare's characters (well, love and money haha). Antonio says that he's sad, but it can't be because of his business, so his friend Solanio responds with "Why then you are in love." Shakespeare seems to use love as a catalyst for all sorts of things (foolishness, nobility, improvement, revenge, sacrifice, and even murder).

  2. This play is really hilarious! I love it! What is interesting is that Shakespeare did this in a transvestite theater. So someone like Viola who is a girl being a guy is played by a guy who is playing a girl who is pretending to be a guy. Inception, right? Also, I like the idea of foolishness, an obvious comparison would be King Lear seeing as the fool is such a prominent character. But I looked up a source for you (, an essay specifically about folly and foolishness which alludes to love at some points as well.

  3. I actually just saw "She's the Man" the other day; I had no idea it was based on this Shakespeare play! (The movie is really dumb... but I'm guessing the play is a lot better haha). In this article (, it talk about the role of the fool, which is to use "silly acts and wits to invade other characters that "evade reality or rather realize a dream." Maybe this could be of help.