Melancholy in Twelfth Night
Twelfth Night is the merriest of Shakespeare’s romantic funnies, it is likewise the saddest. The Christian associations of the title recommends the carpe diem style which runs through the play. Epiphany, according to Christian mythology, is the time when the shepherds acknowledged the birth of Christ. The banquet of epiphany is the last celebration of the Christmas season, after which death takes control of. This cycle of life is an extension of the ancient pagan fertility rituals. The mood is comparable in Keats’s ‘To Autumn’, Hedge-crickets sing; and now with a treble soft The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies. Only, Keats finds peace of mind in the fact that swallows will return, however Shakespeare is worried about the cessation of life which looms over the whole play. Here the recognition is of the transience of life, unlike in Cymbeline where the rediscovery of Perdita symbolises the rediscovery of one’s soul. Considerably, Twelfth Night is the last of the romantic funnies. After this Shakespeare carries on to the disasters and the issue plays– this is the last play where delight is not alloyed with issues of evil and anti-life.
Everything that is subject to time is valueless, this was the middle ages conception. Therefore throughout the midlifes all human activity was directed towards God. Man was offered little value. Then with Renaissance came yet undiscovered knowledge. The brand-new astronomical discoveries enabled man to check out the universe independent of the bibles. With this was born man’s pride in being man in the mortal universe. And therefore man became mindful of the beauty and transience of life. This removed the concept of life long lasting from the structure of eternity.
This presented the prominence of death. The dance of death was now more feared than ever. New questions about human existence took kind. Comedy seeks to find answers, a meaning of life; yet Shakespeare presents a frail shadowy background to his actions. Among the primary governing thoughts in Twelfth Night is the fragility of life. This is the play of youth, almost all the characters are young, and this creates the sadness. Shakespeare asks all to delight in fleeting life, take advantage of the twelve days, refusing the Malvolios.
A pattern emerges from all this lot which offers life some significance. Twelfth Night, despite all its laughter, appears to play upon the keys of loss, condition and deep bewilderment, which sounds through the gentle beauty of the love convention and the joyful humour. The bonded household words– father, brother, sis– symbolizes lack, loss of security and a yearning. It is this sense of irreversible loss, and the moderate apprehension that all this might prove to be a dream supplies the poignant dream-like sensation which pervades the play.
The loss is internal along with external. The recognition of one’s self is a dominant theme, and practically all characters are haunted by this and hunt for their selves in addition to their lost loves. Orsino’s languorously insatiable desire for love and ‘food of love’ in the very first scene provides a parodic statement of the universal sense of want. The searching pun serves to express the search which is currently begun. Nevertheless, Orsino’s words set the mood of the play, which, even through all the ‘caterwauling’ of the kitchen group, never ever fades. Orsino says
That strain again, it had a dying fall: O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet noise That breathes upon a bank of violets, Stealing and providing odour Orsino’s cravings is quickly satiated. The music loses its appeal and his love for love becomes apparent. Even the hunting image takes on modern significance– Diana becomes the naked truth that makes Acteon wild. This is a parody of Petrarchan conceits and it is fittingly given to Orsino, who, like all in Illyria, remains in a state of impression. According to Plato’s Symposium love is a hole, an absence longing to be filled.
So Twelfth Night is a play of pining: Orsino for Olivia, Olivia for Viola, Viola for Orsino, and comically Sir Andrew and Malvolio for Olivia. This focus on pining conjures up the classical misconception of Narcissus and Echo, and makes an egotistical triad of self confined solitude. Each of them playing at the same time Narcissus and Echo with respect to others. They seek their own reflections in the other’s face and own echo in the other’s voice. However more melancholy than this ‘love-sorrow’ is the separation of enjoyed ones by real or evident death. This again can be traced to the sense of romantic absence as embodied in this state of primary loss.
Almost all characters bear traces of such loss– from the father-brother loss which provides similar traumatic experiences for Viola and Olivia, down to the farcical yet sentimental exclamation of Sir Andrew: ‘I was loved when, too.’ While Viola’s grief is real, Olivia’s vow to keep her face veiled for seven years seems more like a ploy to ward off Orsino’s undesirable advances. Otherwise her entire behaviour is comically extreme in place of being melancholy. Seven years in black violates the Elizabethan mourning etiquette which prescribed a period of one year for a bro.
Olivia carefully parallels Orsino– both in her reclusiveness more alleged than borne out– and as a willing victim of reflective melancholia. Olivia’s unnamed bro fades from the surface area of the play. However his spirit continues to haunt. For no earlier has the style of bro loss been sounded in the minor secret than it recurs in the significant. The ‘eye-offending salt water’ of tears paves the way to the sea. Olivia’s sibling fades into Viola’s. In a drama significantly interested in wholeness of identity, the twinned heroines are each provided as halves of a pairing, cloven far from the male counterpart with whom she started life.
In Jungian terms, when Viola presumes the male disguise, it is as if she recapitulates in her own person the lost other, dressing precisely like Sebastian, and as if Olivia also finds her own in Viola. Herein lies the truth that both of them remain in an illusory world, it is just the presence of Sebastian which permits a pleased resolution, otherwise the impending result was certainly terrible. There might be an autobiographical component in this brother-sister separation style. Shakespeare himself was the father of boy-girl twins of whom the kid died prior to the structure of this play.
The twins were eleven and half years of ages when death separated them. Shakespeare needs to have felt at heart the wistful sadness in the eyes of Judith the making it through kid, which he endowed to viola. Twelfth Night consists of a calm, loving elegy, and a misconception of renewal. It feigns that Hamnet, the young boy twin, is not dead, however sticks around in the unknown, cleaned up on the shores of Illyria, the land of impression and lyricism. Prove real, imagination, O prove real This is not only Viola’s, but likewise Shakespeare’s sincere cry. Thus Viola’s unhappiness resounds with a new meaning. Her exclamation at her entry is,
And what should I perform in Illyria? My bro he remains in Elysium. Her brother returns to her, however Hamnet does not. Unlike Sebastian, Viola manages herself and centres her ideas on instant problems. Her wit enables her to get a shelter in an alien and unfriendly world. But her wit likewise has a touch of the autumnal– in keeping with the autumnal note of the play. And even in her sadness she can sympathise with others. She comprehends Olivia’s plots quickly in location of reject, reveals tender understanding, she says, Alas, our frailty is the cause, not we, For such as we are made from, such we be.
Her recognition with Olivia is appropriate in more ways than one– not only both of them are lovesick, however likewise they wish for a bro figure. However Viola’s pathos is more touching. She needs to bear messages to her rival from the guy she likes. This she does without a whispering and with all sincerity. Her appreciation of Orsino comes directly from her heart. She is pained to the extreme, and practically reveals herself when Orsino calls females less loyal and doing not have in depth of feeling. She tells the Duke: My daddy had a child lov had actually a man, As it might be possibly, were I a female, I should your lordship.
Thus privately professing her love. But her reduced agony is felt when she tells Orsino the expected ending of her non-existent sister’s love whose history was, she tells Orsino, A blank, my lord: she never told her love For she never ever anticipates to have Orsino and she dares not desire the difficult. As when her brother’s name is discussed she fears to hope for the best. Shakespeare saves the play from ending in total disaster by bringing in Sebastian and hence enabling Viola to have a delighted end, in an union with Orsino. In the first scene orsino begins with an images of flowers.
And the scene ends with flowers: Away before me to sweet beds of flowers! Love-thoughts lie abundant when canopied with bowers. The image of flowers comes again and once again throughout the play. Flowers symbolise transience– short-term appeal, something that does not last. So Feste informs Olivia: As there is no true cuckold but calamity, so charm’s a flower. Advising her that times are never constantly bad, therefore to keep on grieving for something that is past is to squander valuable time and no one has world enough and time. Orsino talks about lady’s appeal, asking Cesario to fall in love with some lady younger than he,
For ladies are as roses, whose reasonable flower Being once display ‘d, doth fall that really hour. Viola has to agree. She admits that death comes when one has just reached perfection. Speaking not only for females but for all mankind. The flower images worries the carpe-diem theme of the play– stop the day prior to it ends. This style is also propagated through the music of the play. In Twelfth Night music plays an essential role, developing the tone of the play. Through music the emotive basis of human existence is emphasised, which is to be felt rather than perceived cerebrally.
There is uncommon music in Viola. She does not sing, but her words carry poetic motivation. She echoes Shakespeare’s sonnets when she informs Olivia: Girl, you are the cruell’st she alive If you will lead these graces to the grave And leave the world no copy. Like the early marital relationship sonnets the style here is of charm perpetuated through marital relationship. But the character who has lots of music and is really melancholy, though not in his mindset or expression, is Feste. Feste is the first true fool of Shakespeare’s plays. One of the functions of the clown is to sing. He sings to Toby and Andrew:
What is love? ‘T is not hereafter, Present mirth hath present laughter: Whats to come is still uncertain. In hold-up there lies no plenty, Then come kiss me sweet and twenty: Youth’s a things will not sustain. The fragility of youth and shadow of death– this is in line with the play’s theme and state of mind and also Feste’s character. His other tune, which he sings to please Orsino, is equally sad, Leave, come away death, And in sad cypress let me be laid. Fie away, fie away breath, I am slain by a reasonable vicious house maid. This song continues to reveal Feste’s own bleak future.
He is outside the action, an objective onlooker. There is no involvement. He is bad, has no security. He begs to get money. For a man of his intellectual capacities this should be disgusting. He has no past, no future and no substantial present. He is a relic of the past, from Olivia’s dad’s time. He is constantly threatened with discharge which is as bad as hanging for him. However he lets summertime bear it out. Only his tune betray his state. Thus in his tunes the thought of hereafter is subordinated. In the last scene everybody leaves except Feste, who stays to give the audience a tune.
A song in which he is transformed from the character to the actor. His last tune marks the ending of the play, the ending of the twelfth night. Death’s reign begins with the next day. Feste’s tune is sentimental, he recalls when folly was not as unacceptable or threatening. He likewise provides a cynical view of marital relationship as an unwanted responsibility. This casts an oblique point of view on the centrality of marital relationship in the play as a symbol of concord and resolution. A fantastic while ago the world started, With hi, ho, the wind and the rain, But that’s all one, our play is done, And we’ll make every effort to please you everyday. That’s all one’ symbolizes from one perspective that since absolutely nothing is truly essential enough to worry about, satisfaction and folly are the only activities worth undertaking. From another, comparable, point of view the expression can be checked out as helpless, despairing resignation, satisfaction and recklessness are doomed efforts to leave from an unbearable awareness of futility. In ‘our play is done’, it is more about the innocent activities than about the play itself. It is a nostalgic acknowledgment of the post innocence state. Feste’s song most likely happens on a dark, empty, quiet phase, encapsulating Feste’s loneliness.
His life is really as empty. He is as much an outcast as Malvolio, only he is not embittered. He is the artist. Isolated, presenting life, however not coming from it. His song is a really negative talk about human presence. To Feste the world does appear like … a tale Informed by a moron, loaded with sound and fury, Symbolizing nothing. The song is a pointer of the style of the play– youth and its subjection to time. The concern which occurs is whether this type of existence deserves the strife. With this question the curtain comes down on Shakespeare’s romantic world.
The final song, which combines all the melancholy passages in the play, leaves a yearning in the reader’s mind. A tint of unhappiness which fills the heart and leaves a deep impression, is offered to the entire play. This song marks a turning point in the world of Shakespearean drama. The playful attitude is done, now it is time for major services of life, which includes the greatest of calamities. Perhaps at the minute Shakespeare himself identified with Feste. He who even with his countless height of mind needed to be the public’s jester and servant. Maybe for an idle minute he wondered, if all this is worth the problems or not.