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The 3 Types of Love Identified in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night

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There are numerous types of love shown within Shakespeare’s, Twelfth Night. The types of love displayed in this play include obsessive love when Orsino is seen groveling over Olivia for her hand in marriage, Brotherly love we see from Antonio and Sebastian, and extreme self-love shown to the audience, by Malvolio. The types of love that are included in this play are very significant towards the advancement of this story, and this is recognized by analyzing the 3 types of love: Obsessive, Brotherly, and self-love.

Throughout the play Twelfth Night, Duke Orsino displays obsessive “Mania-Love” towards Olivia. Duke Orsino’s character is basically summarized at the beginning of the play, he states:

“ If music be the food of love, play on.Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,The appetite may sicken and so die” (Shakespeare I.i.1-3).

The Duke seems to be upset and unhappy with his relationship with Olivia and he is convinced that if she does accept his marriage request, his entire existence will disintegrate. Duke Orsino has had this long desire and to be with Olivia ever since he laid his eyes upon her, and all his heart begins to hurt once he realizes that she is not giving him the time of day. Orsino declares:

O, when mine eyes did see Olivia first,Methought she purged the air of pestilence.That instant was I turned into a hart,And my desires, like fell and cruel hounds,E’er since pursue me.
(Shakespeare I.i.19-23)

However, due to the passing of her brother, Olivia has decided to isolate herself from socialization and majority of the people in Illyria. Even though the duke knows that her brother has passed, he still continues to send his servants to Olivia’s kingdom to make marriage proposals. With all his efforts he just continues to make the situation worse for himself as Olivia wants to be isolated during her time of grieving and instead of him feeling sorry for her, he continues to drown in his self-pity, not considering her situation. It seems as though Orsino likes the idea of having a wife, but not actually being in love with the person who he marries. Orsino’s obsession for Olivia in Twelfth Night clearly exhibits his “Mania-Love” for her.

In this Shakespearean play, Twelfth Night, we are able to witness “Philia-Love” through the close relationship of Sebastian and Antonio. “Philia-Love” is identified as an affectionate love but it can also be classified “Brotherly Love”. We see this type of love from Antonio and Sebastian when they are both first introduced into the Twelfth Night play because of the unfortunate accident of their shipwreck. It is evident that Sebastian and Antonio have a special type of bond; they seem to have the type of love that siblings have for each other. Even though they are not blood-related, they still show each other brotherly love by protecting each other, helping each other, and caring for each other. After Antonio save Sebastian from the shipwreck, their friendship becomes stronger, but when Sebastian wants to enter the city of Illyria, Antonio knows that he is not able to go with his friend since he has a criminal record in the Duke’s kingdom. Antonio’s loyalty to Sebastian is proved later on in the play when he risks his safety and identity for protecting “Sebastian” when he gets into an altercation with Sir Toby and Sir Andrew.

ANTONIO. Put up your sword! If this young gentleman

Have done any offence, I take the fault on me:

If you offend him, I for him defy you. (Shakespeare III.iv. 286-288)

Sebastian thinks the man who he is trying to protect is Sebastian, but it is not, it is Viola, Sebastian’s sister, dressed in her disguise and since they look alike Antonio must have mistaken them for one another. Antonio, being out in the open for protecting his friend, now gets caught by the Duke’s policemen and he is taken to prison. Antonio’s kind and sacrificial act completely depicts a clear vision of “Philla-Love” between Sebastian and Antonio.

Malvolio, a special character, in Twelfth night demonstrates self-love “Philautia-Love” throughout the play. Malvolio correctly depicts this type of love because he is always so full of himself, pompous, and rude. Malvolio seems to never doubt himself as he thinks he is superior to the other servants as well as Olivia’s uncle and his friend, Sir Toby and Sir Andrew. Even Olivia admits he is full of his own self-love, she says: “O you are sick of self-love, Malvolio, and taste with a distempered appetite” (Shakespeare I.v.82-83).

He taunts Feste, Olivia’s fool, by stating this:

I marvel your ladyship takes such delight in such a barren
rascal. I saw him put down the other day with an
ordinary fool, that has no more brain than a stone. Look
you now, he is out of his guard already! Unless you laugh
and minister occasion to him, he is gagged. I protest
take these wise men, that crow so at these set kind of
fools, no better than the fools’ zanies.
(Shakespeare I.v.75-81)

Malvolio says this because he has no humor and he does not enjoy the fun things in life such as jokes. he thinks that him being proper and seeing things this way, puts him superior to everyone else. He also wonders why Olivia takes such delight in a joker, or fool and not a proper man like himself. Another time when Malvolio sees himself as superior is when Maria tells Sir Toby and company to help him get into bed and treat his sickness, he declares:

“Go hang yourselves you all. You are idle, shallow things; I Am not of your element. You shall know hereafter.” (Shakespeare III.iv.123-113)

Malvolio announces to Sir Toby and his company that he is not “of their element”, in which Malvolio is basically saying “I am not one of you guys, You are not on my level”, Malvolio says this because he feels as though he is at more of a high ranking status than all the other servants, he even thinks he is superior to Sir Toby, Olivia’s uncle, because he is a drunkard . The others decide to play a prank on Malvolio because they realize that he is getting too cocky and arrogant with the way he talks to them and treats them. Maria writes a letter in Olivia’s handwriting and leaves it on the ground for Malvolio to pick up. He picks it up and immediately begins to read it, he then thinks that the letter is directed to him even though his name was not written on it, just the letters “M.O.A.I”. He seems to think it is directed to him because he is so conceited that he thought Olivia had finally fallen in love with a servant like him. Throughout the play, Twelfth Night, Malvolio continues to make a fool of himself by following “Olivia’s” Instructions to smile constantly, go cross-gartered, and wear yellow stockings. With Malvolio being so conceited, he clearly depicts “Philautia – Love”.

Through the observation of Orsino’s obsessive love for Olivia, the brotherly love and bond shared between Antonio and Sebastian, and Malvolio’s arrogant self-love, it is evident that this Shakespearean play illustrates love on numerous levels than just one type of love. The types of love that are included in this play are very significant towards the advancement of this great Shakespearean play, and this is recognized by investigating the 3 types of love: Obsessive, Brotherly, and self-love.

Works Cited

  • Shakespeare, William. Oxford School Shakespeare – Twelfth Night. Oxford University Press, 1992.
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