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    Twelfth Night character analysis Essay

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    At the start of the play, Orsino, the Duke of Illyria is shown as a noble man. Shakespeare’s audience knew this or has noticed this by the way Orsino speaks. Orsino speaks in an elaborate and very sophisticated way. He does this by comparing music with food and love with appetite when he says, “If music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it”. Also, Orsino uses sibilance, which is a repeated’s’ that creates a soft dramatic and gentle mood and he also speaks in verses (iambic pentameter, and with rhythm).

    However, Orsino is in love with the idea of being in love because he only thinks about love but not the love to Olivia, a Countess whose father and brother have died. Olivia’s name is not mentioned until Act 1, Scene 1, line 18. Orsino also uses a paradox “Stealing and giving” which he says that the pleasant odor has left and compares love with the sea, as it can be very strong and devastating and if something falls inside it, it will lower its value. This, however, is not the only thing we know about Orsino.

    He uses a pun, when his servant Curio asks him if he wants to hunt the “Hart” which was a sort of deer, and Orsino makes it sound as if he wants to go and hunt Olivia’s heart, which shows us his way of avoiding Curio’s attempt to change the subject. Also, Orsino uses hyperbole when he says “Me thought she purged the air of pestilence”. He also says “And my desires, like fell and cruel hounds” meaning that he believes in love at first sight. Orsino is also a very fickle person and a self-centered man who only cares about himself.

    We know this, when Valentine, Orsino’s messenger tells him that Olivia will be veiled for the next seven years and not meet with any man due to the death of her brother, Orsino starts thinking that if she loves her dead brother so much, she will love Orsino the same way when Cupid’s arrow will hit her. This is a classical allusion and all this shows that Orsino is a courtly lover, a kind of character that Shakespeare’s audience would be familiar with. Twelfth Night character analysis In Act 1, Scene 4, here again, we see that Orsino wants to listen to romantic and soothing music.

    So, he sends of Curio, his servant, to get Feste. The reason why Orsino send Curio to get Feste is, because he thinks that his songs can relieve his dreadful heartaches, caused by too much love. Then, Orsino starts giving advice to Viola who is disguised as a young man called cesario about what love is. Both talk about love and, Cesario tells Orsino about one woman’s love, but then Feste enters the room in which Orsino is sat down and starts singing. When Feste finishes singing, he starts mocking Orsino, saying that his love is like an opal and taffeta as their colors change in different light.

    Thus, Feste compares Orsino with that because his love is strange; changing from one type to another and that he is very fickle. However, Orsino, a very well educated and respectful man with a good reputation as a duke, does not realize that he is being mocked by a fool, and takes the words as a compliment. After the conversation with Feste, Orsino sends Curio to Olivia’s palace and Cesario says that the countess might reject Orsino. So, Orsino tells Cesario that he cannot be answered in such a way. Also, there can be two interpretations in which this can be said.

    Firstly, he can say it in an arrogant way because no women can love him as he does and that he is a duke. Secondly, he can say this in an upset way, feeling lousy, because Olivia may have become sick and tired of him and his messengers. So, after this speech, Cesario starts explaining to Orsino the meaning of true love, and what it is. Feste the clown, or fool, wanders around Orsino’s and Olivia’s palace. He earns his livings by singing old and romantic songs, making jokes and giving good advice to foolish people like Orsino, who is terribly in love with the idea of being in love. Feste is also, or may be, the wisest of all in Twelfth Night.

    He has the freedom to say whatever is in his mind just like Olivia said in Act 1, Scene 5, “He is an allowed fool”. When he goes to Orsino’s palace, he mocks him and calls him fickle. In Act 2, Scene 4, line 11, Curio, Orsino’s servant calls Feste a jester, a person who sings songs or told heroic stories to the audience. However, during medieval times, fools were mentally handicapped, which nowadays is a cruel way of being entertained. But, in Twelfth Night, Feste travels freely and know everything, such as the shipwreck, when Viola landed on the shores of Illyria with the captain.

    In contrast with Orsino, Viola is not a romantic, sentimental and love-sick person. She is very passionate and she knows the meaning of true love and says that her love is “Love indeed” in Act 2, Scene 4, line 16. She also says that real love is not about showing off, but it is about feelings, and that someone really in love, should be patient, unlike Orsino, who only thinks about love and pain. Also, Act 2, Scene 4, is full of dramatic irony, because Viola is speaking about herself, not her so called “Sister”. Viola can also match Orsino’s type of language, as she uses powerful similes to show the pain of love.

    She is also a character who knows that time can fix problems, because when she left Olivia’s palace, knowing that the Countess had fallen in love with her, she said “O time, thou must untangle this not I! “, which, in other words mean, she cannot deal with her problems alone in a short period of time. Another interesting character in play, who some how plays the role of a fool is Sir. Toby Belch, Olivia’s uncle. Olivia lets her uncle live in her palace, but she doesn’t admire his rude behavior, heavy drinking and staying up all night.

    The reason why he is interesting is because he is very unromantic, his view of love is earthy and earthy and not emotional. To prove this, he makes fun Taurus, calling it “Legs and thighs”. He also uses sexual innuendos to mock Sir. Andrew such as, “Thou might’st never draw sword again”, meaning that he wont be able to have sexual intercourse with a woman and not only that, but, he tells Sir. Andrew to “Accost” Maria, meaning that he should approach her to have sex with him in a violent way. Not understanding what the word means, Sir. Andrew thinks that it is Maria’s name.

    Also, Sir. Toby is a knight, who might be a kind of Lord of Misrule. He is a high class person, but behaves as a peasant and speaks in prose, not in verse like Orsino. However, although he speaks in prose, he uses words in a very skilled way, like word play, puns, and innuendos and so on and so forth. Sir. Toby is also interested in fun more than anything else because he makes puns and rude jokes with Maria about Sir. Andrew. They both mock him because they think that he is stupid, may be foolish, as he pays for Sir. Toby’s drinks, loves Olivia (an entertainment for Sir.

    Toby because he knows that Olivia doesn’t like him) and doesn’t know that much vocabulary making him look silly when he calls Maria a “Shrew” which means a bad tempered woman, and, Sir. Toby doesn’t care about Olivia when he says “Let her except before excepted” or about Maria’s warning showing him being a careless person. Maria is Olivia’s chambermaid. In Act 1, Scene 3, she draws our attention to Sir. Toby’s late nights and drunkenness, when she warns him that his niece, Olivia, has lost her patience with his outrageous behavior. This part is important, because it may have two different interpretations.

    Firstly, it may be said in a very caring way because she may love Sir. Toby and cares about him, secondly, she may say it in an arrogant way, and telling him off as if she is better off than him. She also prepares us for the entry of Sir. Andrew Aguecheek shortly after her conversation with Sir. Toby, who she refers to as “A foolish knight” whom Sir. Andrew has brought to woo Olivia. When she said that that she is going to write the phony “Letter” to trick Malvolio, her supervisor, Sir. Toby says that he is going to marry her for that as a reward for getting revenge on him.

    From this, we can say if she is a social climber or not. There may be different possibilities, because she may marry Sir. Toby for money and wealth or she may truly admire him and have feelings for him and might pity him. Malvolio is Olivia’s steward and seems to be a minor character. He is the main social climber in the play because love, to him means nothing but becoming rich and powerful and getting rid of Sir. Toby Belch. When we first meet Malvolio, he seems to be a simple type of puritan, stiff, thick, and a proper servant who likes nothing else, but to spoil other peoples’ fun.

    His self-regard and his ambitions, which of course extend to marrying Olivia and becoming “Count Malvolio” Act 2, Scene 4 line 36, makes him look silly. When he finds the phony letter, forged by Maria, Malvolio changes from a stiff, pain in the neck steward into a lover. He is very ridiculous in these scenes, as he wears yellow stockings and crossed garters and thinks that he will please Olivia, he starts molesting her and Olivia thinks that he had become mad and calls Maria to help him.

    We start to pity Malvolio when he has been locked up in a dark room and being tormented by Feste. Malvolio desperately claims that he is not mad and possessed by the devil; he begins to seem more of a victim of his own insanity rather than being a victimizer. When Feste torments him, Sir. Toby comes up to him and tells him that the pranks, jokes and tortures over Malvolio must stop and should not go any further because they are risking too much, and Sir. Toby has offended Olivia so many times that he cannot continue on doing bad things.

    In the end of the play, despite what everyone has done to him, he is brought out of the darkness, where he sees an unexpected celebration, no body seems willing to offer him help or an apology, so he says “I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you” and he may leave with his chin up high, or feeling extremely upset. In conclusion, you have seen different attitudes to love and how they have been expressed by the love triangle which includes Orsino, Viola and Olivia, then Malvolio, Maria and Sir.

    Toby Belch. Of course, at the end of the play, every one is very happy, because each and every one of them has found their true love and soul mate, except for poor Malvolio, who has been tortured in a dark room, Feste the fool and Fabian, Olivia’s worker. Sir. Toby and Maria get married, as we know because Fabian had said this in Act 5, Scene 1 and Orsino proposes to Viola. And so, the play ends with Feste singing a song about the different stages in a person’s life and concludes the play.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Twelfth Night character analysis Essay. (2017, Oct 29). Retrieved from

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