Twelfth Night is a very open-ended text. Different readers may come away with multiple or even conflicting interpretations of the play and its characters.

Write a response that addresses these questions:

1. What do you think is the moral or main message of Twelfth Night, and why?

2. What two passages or quotes can you provide to support your interpretation of the play? (Be sure to include the act, scene, and line numbers.)

How exactly do the two passages or quotes you've chosen support your interpretation?

Kelti Lorence
12/14/2012 01:39:24 pm

1. True love comes in all forms and will do anything for the person they cherish. When in love, a person's dreams seem attainable, even if they are nearly impossible.

2. Viola is willing to become a eunich, with high risks of being discovered, simply to begin forming a relationship with Duke Orsino: "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 shall present me as an eunuch to him./ It may be worth thy pains, for I can sing/ And speak to him in many sorts of music/ That will allow me very worth his service./ What else may hap to time I will commit./ Only shape thou thy silence to my wit." (Act 1, Scene 2)

Duke, on the other hand, uses Viola to sway Olivia's mood in his favor, though she has blantantly rejected him time and time again: "Oh, when mine eyes did see Olivia first,/ Methought she purged the air of pestilence." (Orsino, Act 1, Scene 1). " If you be not mad, be gone. If you have reason, be brief. 'Tis not that time of moon with me to make one in so skipping a dialogue." (Olivia, in response to Duke's love letters; Act 1, Scene 5).

3. Viola runs the risk of someone finding out she is really a girl, while disguised as a boy, in order to be in the Duke's presencse. She hopes to begin a friendship with him, and eventually reveal her true identity, banking on the fact that he would begin to really like her by then.
Duke thinks that, because he is so in love with Olivia, even though she constantly denies him, he still has a chance. She tells him off many times but he never gives up on the girl he wants.

12/15/2012 03:09:13 pm

1. When love drives one's actions, they will do things that they don't neccessarily want to do for the one they love. They do it in hopes that their love will eventually be returned. However, in the end, the dice that they threw just fall how destiny determines that they will.

2. One example of this is when Viola tells Orsino that she will attempt to make Olivia love him. Viola does this despite the fact that she, herself, is in love with Orsino. She makes this clear in Act 1, Scene 4, Line 44-46. She says "I’ll do my best / To woo your lady—(aside) Yet, a barful strife— / Whoe'er I woo, myself would be his wife." Which basically means "even though I am going to woo this woman, I hope to be the one that he will marry."

Another example of this love driven scarifice is seen in Antonio. He has enemies in Orsino's court, however, Sebastian is going there. Sebastian told him that it wouldn't be a good idea for Antonio to go with him. However, Antonio says "But come what may, I adore thee so / That danger shall seem sport, and I will go" (Act 2, Scene 1, Line 46-47) Later he defends who he thinks is Sebastian in a fight. In Act 3, Scene 4, Line 326-328, Antonio says "Put up your sword. If this young gentleman / Have done offence, I take the fault on me. / If you offend him, I for him defy you." When Sir Toby Belch asks who he is, he identifies himself as "One, sir, that for his love dares yet do more / Than you have heard him brag to you he will" (Act 3, Scene 4, Line 330-331). In these lines Antonio states that he will fight a hard fight for Sebastian regardless of the circumsatnces.

3. In both passages, the characters do something that they didn't really want to do for somebody that they were in love with. However, the romances of both characters didn't have the same outcome. Viola ended up beginning a friendship with Orsino as Cesario which then developed into a relationship when her true identity as a woman was revealed. In contrast, Antonio viewed his friendship with Sebastian as something that would eventually grow into something stronger, but instead died a little when Sebastian married Olivia. Even though both characters performed acts with the same intentions, they had little influence on their chosen fate.

Mary Sine
12/16/2012 12:04:03 am

1. I think that in the play, Shakespeare calls into question what the differences are between real love and infatuation. In the play, The Fool and other characters make all of the characters who think that they are in love, when its really only infatuation, look and act like fools. But the few characters who are really in love, like Viola, suffer because of their love and their inability to act on it. So in this way, Shakespeare is saying that it is easy to be infatuated, but its harder to be in real love.

2. An example from the text to show how the characters really in love suffer more that the characters that are infatuated is in Act 2, Scene 5, lines 122 to 130, when Viola, as Cesario, is describing the love of her "sister" when she is really talking about her own love. In her monologue she says, that its very hard to be in love when the person you love doesn't love you back. She says in lines 126 - 127, "She sat like Patience on a monument,/Smiling at grief." She says, straight to the person she loves, that she loves him and that her love is so deep that it causes her pain, but she will wait for him because she is so in love with him. This is an example of a character who is really in love with another character, has a hard time in the play because of their love, whereas other characters like Orsino, who is infatuated with Olivia, talks about it all the time but doesn't actually want it to end in some ways because it is easy.

A different example from the text to show how characters that are infatuated act like fools would be when Malvolio, following the planted letter, goes to talk to Olivia, and makes a fool of himself in Act 3, Scene 4. In lines 60 and 61 when Malvolio says to Olivia, quoting the letter, " "If not, let me see thee a servant still." " To which Olivia says, "Why, this is very midsummer madness!" Following the orders of the planted letter, Malvolio makes a fool of himself in front of Olivia, and in doing so manages to convince her that he has gone mad. So, with Maria, the Fool, and Sir Toby supporting the idea that Malvolio has gone crazy, he gets tied up and locked in a dark room, being completely humiliated. Malvolio becomes infatuated with Olivia and the power he could possess as her husband because of the planted letter. Because of his infatuation, he does a series of foolish things, from smiling all the time, wearing yellow stockings, and acting as if he is better than all of the other servants, making him look like a complete fool in front of the object of his infatuation.

12/16/2012 12:44:34 am

1. The nature of love is generally uncontrollable, inconsistent, and driven by fate. Love is often unpredictable in its turns, and is unlikely to end exactly as each party wants. This is evident because of the way that love appears in relation to the characters and in the way that love plays out at the end of the play.

2. A clear example of this is in Act 2, Scene 3, lines 40-41 where Viola says, in response to the ring given to her by Olivia, "O time, thou must untangle this, not I./ It is too hard a knot for me t' untie." The very fact that Viola charms Olivia while she pretends to be a man suggests fate and unpredictability. These lines indicate a lack of control, as well as a role that fate plays. Similarly, when Sebastian first meets Olivia in Act 4, Scene 1, fate seems to play a role. Sebastian says, "What relish is this? How runs the stream?/ Or I am mad, or else this is a dream." (lines 63-64) It is seemingly by chance that Sebastian finds himself loved, and this causes Sebastian to fall in love as well, as he later says to Olivia, "You throw a strange regard upon me, and by that/ I do perceive it hath offended you./ Pardon me, sweet one..." These lines suggest Sebastian's growing love toward Olivia, which occured by chance and was the result of suddenly finding love.

At the end of the play, the nature of love seems most apparent. Sebastian finally appears on stage at the same time as Viola, and Orsino at last realizes that Olivia is uninterested in his love when he learns of her engagement to Cesario (or rather, Sebastian). In this, both Orsino and Olivia experience the unpredictability of love, as Olivia realizes that she had originally fallen in love with a woman pretending to be a man, and Orsino understands that though his love for Olivia is unattainable, he can still get fairly close to her through his marriage to Viola, whom he thought to be a man. In addition, Shakespeare seems to imply an element of fate playing a part as well, especially in regards to Sebastian's appearance in the same area as Viola and the fact that the Orsino's and Olivia's former loves caused them to come into close contact with those whom they would actually marry.

3. All of these examples imply that love is driven by chance or fate, and that it is extremely unpredictable. They also suggest that love does not always leave each party with exactly what they wanted; Orsino, for example, could not have Olivia and so decided to take Viola as his wife instead. Love, in this way, seems to be portrayed as something of an animal, with much of a mind of its own.

Megan Wall
12/16/2012 06:12:55 pm

1. A reoccurring theme, which ultimately serves as the central message of the play, is that love cannot be hidden and will drive a person to act desperately in an attempt to have the feeling of love returned from that person. I see this as the main theme because it is shown in the way the main characters, Viola and Orsino, speak and act, as well as the characters with minor roles.
2. This idea can be observed at the beginning of scene IV act I from Duke Orsino, “O, then unfold the passion of my love,/Surprise her with discourse of my dear faith.” He can no longer suppress his love as he attempted in Act I, Scene I, with music, but he sends Viola with a message to Olivia to restate his deep love for her.
Secondly, when Viola can no longer hide her love for Orsino she acts out desperately and hints toward her masked adoration while she is still disguised as a man. “As it might be perhaps, were I a woman, I should your lordship.” (Act IV, Scene I, no line number given).

Tristan Rude
12/16/2012 07:58:33 pm

I think the main idea / moral is that love is a complicated affair and no one can avoid it, but if one were it pursue it, it can be rewarding.
When Orsino - in act one, scene one, lines one through fifteen - laments over he love he feels; he says that he would over feed it so that he would never want it again. Yet despite this, he continues to pursue it because it would be so rewarding.
Furthermore, Sir Andrew is willing to fight a man in order to earn the love of Olivia (first part of act three scene two). Again, this demonstrates the complications of love. Even more complicated is the possibility of one's love targeting someone of the same gender as with Antonio. This all goes to prove that love can be very complicated and no one can escape from it.

12/16/2012 10:04:53 pm

1. I think the main message of this play is that while falling/looking for love can lead people to do things they normally wouldn't do. This central idea is made apparent by all the work Viola went through for Orsino. "Daylight and champaign discovers not more. This is/open. I will be proud, I will read politic authors, I will/baffle Sir Toby, I will wash off gross acquaintance, I will/be point- devise the very man. I do not now fool myself,/to let imagination jade me, for every reason excites to/this, that my lady loves me." Act II Sc V line 145

2. Viola knows she loves Orsino from the beginning, so to attain her love, she was willing to become someone completely new (a eunuch), just so she could talk to him. "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 shall present me as an eunuch to him./It may be worth thy pains, for I can sing/And speak to him in many sorts of music" Act I Sc II Lines 50-55
Malvolio also falls victim to his love for Olivia. However, he foolishly tries to win her love by trying to transform into the man that the letter he found says she wants.

Both passages support the idea of love making people do crazy things because no woman would ever go that far to be just friends with a man. Nor would a servant ever go out of his way to be rude to his fellow servants and to act like someone he is not, just to make a friend satisfied.

Jacob Jones
12/16/2012 11:44:55 pm

I think that the moral of the story is that things are not always, as they seem. In the story, Viola disguises herself as a man, and then falls in love with Orsino, but she cannot let him know because he thinks that Viola is a man.
An example of my interpretation of the play is in Act 2 Scene 4 where Viola expresses her love for Orsino through a story about “Cerario sister.” However, she cannot tell Orsino that she is really the one that likes him. After that, Orsino tells Viola to go visit Olivia, which is who, Orsino likes. Another example of my interpretation is that in Act 1 Scene 5 Viola went to visit Olivia to talk about Orsino’s love for her. But while they are talking Olivia falls in love with Viola who she believes is Cesario.

12/17/2012 01:31:01 am

I think that the overall moral of this play is that love drives people to do crazy things and when one loves someone it is almost impossible to hide that love for forever.
Viola decides to go undercover so that she can be with Duke Orsino (at least one reason). She must show another woman Duke Orsino's love, despite the fact that she herself is in love with him. In Act 1, Scene 4, line 42 Viola says, "To woo your lady. Yet a bareful strife! Whoever I woo, myself would be his wife!" Here Viola shows readers that although she goes to talk to Olivia to make Duke happy, she wishes he would love her instead.
Another instance when we see that people do crazy things for love is when Sir Andrew wants to fight Cessario (Viola) for Olivia's love. Little does he know that Cessario is really just a woman disguised to win the love of someone else (NOT Olivia). In Act 3, Scene 2 the fighting is discussed. People will go through all obstacles to obtain the feeling of love.
I think both passages support the moral of love making people do crazy things because not many people would go undercover and pretend to be "just friends" with someone they loved. Also, people get jealous in love, like Sir Andrew, causing them to want to fight and do other crazy acts just to win someone over.

Celeste Yahr
12/17/2012 02:09:01 am

1. I think the main idea of the play was that love conquers all and you can’t control fate. I think this because all of the people in this play did not plan on falling in love and realized that they don’t have control over anyone but themselves.
2.A place where this can be seen is in Act 1 Scene 5 Lines 44-46 this is after Orsino has asked Viola to go talk him up to Olivia.“I'll do my best /To woo your lady.[Aside.] 'Yet, a barful strife! /Whoe'er I woo, myself would be his wife.” It shows that loves conquers all because Viola is certain of two things: she loves Orsino and she will marry him. By saying this she is foreshadowing and setting up the fact that love conquers all. She believes that in the end even though she is dressed as a man now they will end up together in other words conquering all. A quote that supports that you can’t control fate is in Act 1 Scene 5 Lines 317 and 318 “Fate, show thy force. Ourselves we do not owe./What is decreed must be, and be this so.” This is said by Olivia after she sends Malvolio after Viola. It shows that Olivia knows that she can’t control what will happen and accepts that she just has to wait and see what’s in store for her life.

Jonathon D.
12/17/2012 09:01:13 am

In my opinion, I think that love is the overall moral and meaning of the play. Shakespeare shows that love can come in the most unexpected ways possible and to the people that we least expect. We may think we love one person but eventually someone else eventually pops up.

There is a particular quote from Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 29-30. The quote is, " Orsino. I have heard my father name him./He was a bachelor then." This quote is portraying that Viola is intrigued with Orsino but does not want to come directly out saying. Putting in the question, " He was a bachelor then," is basically asking if he has a girlfriend or is married. The answer to this question is that he does want to go out with someone but the girl he loves rejects him. This gives Viola a chance to get Orsino to fall for her. One other passage is when Olivia asks Sebastian to marry her thinking that Sebastian is actually Cesario (Viola). Act 4, Scene 3 Lines 23-29 which is where Olivia asks Sebastian to marry her. " Blame not this haste of mine. IF you mean well,/ Now go with me and with this holy man/ Into the chantry by. There, before him/ And underneath that consecrated roof,/ Plight me the full assurance of your faith,/ That my most jealous and too doubtful soul/ May live at peace. He shall conceal it." This amazing quote is Olivia asking Sebastian to marry her. Sebastian is confused because he has never seen this lady before and for her to come out of no where and ask him to marry her he thinks is strange. He later goes on with the marriage because he thinks that Olivia is really beautiful.

These two quotes support my interpretation of the play because both of the quotes deal with the theme of love. The first quote when Viola is asking about the bachelor Orsino is actually an inquire if he is open and if he his Viola really wants to go out with him. The second quote where Olivia is asking Sebastian to marry her also deals with love.

12/17/2012 09:23:41 pm

1. I think that the main message of Twelfth night is that people will do anything for true love and that love comes when least expected.
2. We see this when Viola is willing to become a eunuch, just so that she can talk to Duke. "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 shall present me as an eunuch to him./It may be worth thy pains, for I can sing/And speak to him in many sorts of music" Act I Sc II Lines 50-55.
Another example of this is when Sir Andrew wants to fight Cesareo for Olivia's love; the thing is is that Sir Andrew does not really know Olivia ( not enough to fight for her). In Scene 2 of Act 3 they talk about fighting for Olivia's love.

12/17/2012 11:06:53 pm

1. Love makes people do crazy hilarious things, but everything will eventually come together in the end whether it be good or bad; it is what it is.
2. In the play, not everyone ends up happy. Malvolio is fooled into thinking Olivia loves him and in Act 2 Sc. 5 line 182-183 he says that "I will do everything/ thou wilt have of me." He is willing to do anything for her but in the end he doesn't get his wishes. Antonio is willing to risk his life following Sebastian to Illyria and says in Act 2 Sc. 2 Line 46-47 that "But come what may, I adore thee so/ That danger shall seem sport, and I will go." He again is willing to do anything for Sebastian but his plans don't turn out well either. This play is a comedy and a love story, but it also tells us to take risks for love. I believe that Malvolio and Antonio didn't risk it all to get what they wanted, which is why they failed. Viola risks it all to get to Orsino and she is rewarded. The play teaches us that if we really want something, you have to go get it, not wait for it to come to you.

12/18/2012 12:06:38 am

I believe that the overall message of the story is that love conquers all, and is expressed in many different ways.

Throughout the play we see that Malvolio has an uncontrollable passion of love for his master Olivia. He expresses his love for her by defending her against people he believes may hurt her and also by doing things he believes will please her. In Act 2 Malvolia stumbles upon a letter that he thinks is a secret love letter from Olivia telling him the things he must do in order for them to be together. In Act 2, Scene 5, lines 181-182, Malvolio declares that he will do what ever it takes to win Olivia's heart by saying, "Jove, I thank thee! I will smile. I will do everything that thou wilt have me." This quotes cements the idea that love conquers all because Malvolio is willing to do anything it takes to win her over.

At the beginning of Act 2 we are introduced to the characters of Antonio and Sebastian. These two characters have been friends for a long time and when Sebastian informs Antonio that he must depart from his company, Antonio reveals his secret love he has for Sebastian. In Act 2 Antonio makes a decision out of love to risk his life for Sebastian. Antonio refuses to leave Sebastian regardless of the fact that he may be killed by his enemies in Illyria. Act 2, Scene 1, Lines 44-47, "I have many enemies in Orsino's court, else would i very shortly see thee there. But come what may, I do adore thee so that danger shall seem sport, and i will go." Here we witness that love does conquer all, giving people the courage to do things they otherwise wouldn't. The power of love overrides the fear of Antonio's enemies in Orsino's court, therefore making him follow his true love into the middle of danger.

These two quotes support my interpretation of the play because they both give examples of characters making rash decisions in the name of love. Malvolio is willing to make a fool out of him self for the love of Olivia, and Antonio puts himself in harms way to follow his "soul mate" to secure his protection.

12/18/2012 12:38:11 am

I think the moral of Twelfth Night is that people will go to great lengths to pursue happiness. Most of the time, people find the greatest happiness in love.

In act 5 Scene 1, Viola tells Sebastian, her brother that she will “make us happy both” indicating that she wants to make everyone happy. Even though she doesn’t say it, the only way that she can be happy is if everyone else is happy with her.

In Act 1 Scene 5, Viola says that it would be cruel for Olivia to “leave the world no copy” of herself. She thinks that the world will be a more enjoyable place for her if there are more beautiful people like Olivia. Also, she wants to see Olivia happy with a man because she thinks that will make her a better person.

Hannah H
12/18/2012 01:28:23 pm

I believe the moral of The Twelfth Night is that infatuation comes easy but true love has to conquer dificultties. At some point in the play all of the characters express that they are in love, when infact as it turns out most are only infatuated with the idea of love. (Malvolio, Duke, Olivia, Antonio, etc.) Few (Voila) go through difficulties and stay true to their love.
Act 2 scene 5 lines 172, Malvolio quotes, " ... drives me to these habits of her liking./ ....If thou entertains my love, let it appear in thy/smiling./.... I will do everything that thou wilt have me." Saying that his infatuation has caused him to act as a fool of love. Act 2 scene 5 lines 17 " for the love of mockery/ this letter will make a contemplative idiot of / him." Where Viola expresses in act 2 scene 5 lines 125 that, " sat like Patience on a monument,/ smiling at grief. Was this not love indeed?" and in line 120, " I should your lordship" Hinting to Orsino of her undying love for him.
These quotes show both the infatuation and the true love expressed in this play, they support my opinion of the moral by giving examples of the two takes on love that are present in the Twelfth Night.

12/18/2012 07:11:04 pm

I think Shakespeares message is that those who are truly in love with have it, but those who are infatuated will never get it in the end. Malvolio, Antonio, and the duke, who are infatuated rather than really in love such as Viola and Olivia, never have their love returned to them (as they expected).

Malvolio is infatuated with Olivia, as during Act 2 scene 5 he imagines himself "married three months to [Olivia]", rich and wearing fancy colthes, and commanding the servants and Sir Toby around. But of course, he doesn't have Olivia in the end. Viola, however, pretends to be a man under the duke's command while she struggles with her overpowering love for him. And after her many hardships, love prevails and the duke is magically in love with her in the end, as he says "You'll be the queen of my dreams, Orsino's true love."

10/19/2013 04:40:34 pm

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