Love,
one of the most impactful and meaningful words in the English language. Stories
have been told about it, poems and sonnets, and even grandiose gestures. It is
what keep the heart pumping. In Twelfth Night we see evidence of this “true
love” but in many ways. Maria and Sir Toby Belch love each other in an
unconditional way, yet they remain in a state of denial for most of the play.
Count Malvolio loves Olivia only in the way a large man looks at a burger, it’s
purely greed. Olivia loves Viola, or in this case Cesario, in a way that shows
lust for the flesh, with maybe some truly kindred heart ship. The only true and
unconditional shown in the play is that of Viola for Orsino, and Orsino for
Olivia. To understand the web of love and to find all of it’s divers and unique
happenings, we must first analyze the script, and deduce who really loves who.

            In the opening scene, we find a ship
wrecked Viola, confiding to her Captain. She tells the Captain of her brother,
whom she loves dearly. She fears he is dead, and weeps, feeling hopeless. The
only thing that keeps her moving, is the Captain saying he saw him in the water
so there’s a chance he survived. Here we have a very clear case of sibling
love, but not in it’s sexual connotation. It is the kind of love that keeps a
family connected, a understanding for one person, and an all-encompassing love.

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            Orsino has a very popular monologue
in which he says “If music be the food of love, play on. Give me excess of it,
that, surfeiting, The appetite may sicken and so die, That strain again! It had
a dying fall. O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound That breathes upon a
bank of violets, Stealing and giving odor. Enough; no more.” (FTLN 0001-0007).
This opening scene shows Count Orsino showing his unconditional love for Viola,
in which he makes her sound angelic and fantastical. Orsino reflects the
one-sided love that a nerd would feel for the popular girl in a movie, hopeless
but yearning. Orsino has what is called Limerence. Limerence is defined in the
Webster Dictionary as a state of mind resulting from romantic attraction,
characterized by feelings of euphoria, the desire to have one’s feelings
reciprocated. This is shown when he sends people to Olivia’s gate, begging her
to come out, “Therefore, good youth, address thy gait unto her. Be not denied
access. Stand at her doors” (FTLN 0265-0266), literally trying to force Olivia
to love him. So, nerd love turns dark in this obsessive form. We have not seen
the end of this love, however, where we see Olivia throw a ring to Malvolio,
trying to make Viola return. She then states “Desire him not to flatter with
his lord, Nor hold him up with hopes. I am not for him. If that the youth will
come this way tomorrow, I’ll give him reasons for ‘t. Hie thee, Malvolio.”
(FTLN 0605-0609), showing that she is having a euphoric moment of profound
love, resulting in the need to convive Viola to reciprocate those feelings.

            Malvolio, Olivia’s steward, loves Olivia
in a way that can only be manifested in greed and ego. Malvolio walks around
the estate telling people what to do and criticizing them, acting as if he is
in charge. Once Maria, Toby, and Andrew have had enough, they decide to forge a
letter, to convince Malvolio that Olivia is infatuated with him. This trick
takes his hold and Malvolio comes to Olivia cross gartered, wearing yellow
stockings, and smiling consistently. He then says to the lady Olivia “Not black
in my mind, though yellow in my legs. It did come to his hands, and commands
shall be executed. I think we do know the sweet Roman hand.” (FTLN 1575-1579),
in layman’s terms saying, “hey baby, you got what you wanted”. Malvolio may
have done this to please his lady Olivia, or he may have been doing it for the
financial status that comes with it. It is implied however that the letter
overinflated his ego, causing him to greedily descend on Lady Olivia.

            Viola feels a true and honest love
for Orsino. She helps him win Olivia’s favor, even though she knows it would
mean she could not have him. Viola is selfless for her true love, and wishes no
ill will to him, and purely and unconditionally loves him. She does not try to
alter his feelings because she is undercover as stated, “Conceal me what I am, and
be my aid For such disguise as haply shall become The form of my intent. I’ll
serve this duke. Thou shalt present me as an eunuch to him.” (FTLN 0099-0102).
Her family name is not received well in Illyria, so she pretends to be a
eunuch, which is a male without reproductive organs, and to show her love for
Orsino means she would have to lose her disguise. This love is also shown
between Toby and Maria, but they don’t know it yet. As shown, “She’s a beagle
true bred, and one that adores me. What o’ that?” (FTLN 0878-0879) Toby
recognizes that something is there, but does not yet admit that he feels a deep
love for her. Maria and him exchange a kiss, and get married off-stage once
they realize their unconditional love with each other

            Love is a very tricky thing, comes
in many different forms, and never comes in the way we expect. This was shown
as a common theme amongst the diverse web of love in Twelfth Night. Malvolio
wanted Olivia’s love, but received a kind of compassionate love from the Fool
when he was in prison. Olivia wanted the love of Viola, but instead got her
twin brother. Orsino wanted the love of Olivia and instead got Viola. Maria and
Toby had no clue what they wanted until they found one another. There is a
complex web of love in Twelfth Night including limerence, sibling love,
unrequited love, and ultimately “true love”. Past the main instance love, we
also see instances of brotherly love between Andrew and Toby. All the instances
of love shown can be interpreted different ways, Such as Viola being loved by
Orsino (while posing as a man) and Olivia (while a woman) can be seen as
same-sex love. The web of love in Twelfth Night is very complex, and shows a
whole new level to the piece.