Love is an occurring theme for Shakespeare in his plays, as we saw in A Midsummer’s Night Dream and now in Twelfth Night. It seems like Shakespeare enjoys playing with love triangles in his work. Twelfth Night follows along this love pattern, but also introduces new ideas of love that may confuse the audience a little. Shakespeare of course gives us a nobleman and woman who are meant to be married, in which the story is involved around. But he also gives his audience a love interest which is surprising. He introduces Viola early in the play; but as the play continues, Viola pretends to be a man and thus turns into Cesario. This creates an interesting love theme throughout the rest of the play.
Cesario unintentionally wins over the love of Olivia while trying to convince her to love and marry Orsino. This is the surprising love affair that Shakespeare creates because Olivia falls in love with a woman whom she thinks is a man. The very first glimpse of this we get in Act 1 Scene 5,
“Methinks I feel this youth’s perfections
With an invisible and subtle stealth
To creep in at mine eyes. Well, let it be.”
Olivia is amazed by the man she just encountered because he is not like any other man she has met before. Viola, as Cesario, is a gentle and sweet man that invites Olivia into caring for him in way she has never thought of before. One thing which seemed odd to me is how Viola keeps going to see Olivia. She knows that Olivia is falling for her and feels bad because she is not who Olivia believes she is. She also knows that this is bad because she is supposed to be doing Orsino a favor by convincing Olivia to marry him. Maybe Viola continues to visit Olivia because she thinks she can win over Olivia’s love for Orsino and convince her that loving Cesario cannot happen. It just does not make sense to me because Viola/Cesario does not even tell Orsino the truth about what is taking place. If he did, maybe Orsino would actually go meet with Olivia himself and win her over.
It is clear that Shakespeare loves to use his intelligence to his advantage by creating such interesting and captivating stories. He gives the audience an unconventional love scenario that only he can explain. This scene leaves the audience asking themselves many questions. How can a woman love another woman? How can Olivia not see that Cesario has more womanly features than manly? What will happen when she finds out the truth? All of these questions will hopefully work their way out at the end of the play.