Love Triangle in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night
“O, what a deal of scorn looks beautiful in the contempt and anger of his lip! A murd’rous guilt shows not itself more soon than love that would seem hid: love’s night is noon. – Cesario, by the roses of the spring, by maidhood, honor, truth, and every thing, I love thee so, that maugre all thy pride, nor wit nor reason can my passion hide. Do not extort thy reasons from this clause, for that I woo, thou therefore hast no cause; but rather reason thus with reason fetter: love sought is good, but given unsought is better.” (Shakespeare. Twelfth Night. 3.2.144-156).
In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare was able to embody the perfect love triangle between Olivia, Orsino, and Viola/Cesario. This particular passage was Olivia’s speech upon the first encounter with Viola, or as Olivia knew her, Cesario. Cesario had actually come to the countess to bring message of Orsino’s love for her, but upon encountering Cesario, Olivia fell instantly in love herself thus finishing the final corner of this love triangle. I think the main point that should be taken into account when reading Olivia’s passage is the obvious presence of guilt and love, two very opposing emotions, which she appears to be having an internal conflict with.
In her aside, she was immediately stricken with love for the boy Cesario that she had only just met. Just before the speech Olivia made, Cesario was rather uncivil to her. Considering Olivia’s place as a rich countess, Cesario stepped out of line when speaking to her with his subtle disrespectfulness. However, Olivia began by gushing over how much she loved Cesario despite his words reflecting “contempt and anger” (3.2.146). Rather, Olivia showed signs of lust through her adoration of such contemptuous words. She was not thinking clearly, and thus, the audience is introduced to a character that immediately comes off as completely love struck. It is here that I imagine Shakespeare was trying to fore-shadow future events. The audience may being to predict that Olivia would make rash decisions based on her blind love.
In the next line, however, Olivia showed signs of her emotional dilemma. Guilt began to plague her thoughts for a fleeting moment. The reason for this shame was not entirely explained, but I believe it had everything to do with the death of her brother which was mentioned at the very beginning of the play. She was ashamed of falling into this lustful state of mind while she was supposed to still be in mourning. She noticed immediately after she hinted at her feelings for Cesario, the guilt surfaced.
Olivia finished her thoughts of guilt with the line, “love’s night is noon” (3.2.148). There are various ways this could have been perceived. Shakespeare has a tendency to include immeasurable amounts of “images and metaphors”, and it’s important to keep in mind that with Shakespeare “greater sensitivity is always possible” (McDonald 37). I...