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Narcissism In William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

Decent Essays
In many of Shakespeare’s sonnets, he emphasizes the subjective experience of love; however, he never wallows in his feelings to a conceited extent. Actually, he labels narcissism as incompatible with real love in some of his other sonnets and in his comedy Twelfth Night. Although his narcissistic characters, especially Malvolio, Orsino (from his comedy), and the Young Man (from his sonnets), believe themselves to be experiencing passion, their foolish self-indulgence inhibits them from finding true love, as it causes them to act contrary to nature and mistaking other desires as love. Conversely, other characters not blocked by vanity, like Viola and the Speaker of the Sonnets, can find actual love, since they correctly understand themselves…show more content…
Whereas Orsino wants to wallow in his sorrow over his rejection, Viola, who loves Orsino, hints at her love for him while dressed as Cesario. She says, “Say that some lady… / Hath for your love as great a pang of heart as you have for Olivia” (II, iv, 90-91). As a lover naturally should, Viola tries to make known her love for Orsino so that they can both actually be in love; however, Orsino’s narcissism prevents him from noticing Viola’s/Cesario’s hints and prevents him from experiencing real love at this point in the play. Likewise, the Speaker of the Sonnets declares to the Young Man that, “My love shall in my verse ever live young” (Sonnet 19, 14), and, “But were some child of yours alive that time, / You shall love twice- in it and in my rhyme” (Sonnet 17, 13-14). Even as the Young Man’s ego stops him from having children (which Shakespeare believes to be the goal of love), the Speaker, selflessly acting in the name true love, creates through his poetry metaphoric offspring for the Young man to be…show more content…
After he reads the fake letter, he boasts, “I will baffle Sir Toby, I will wash off gross acq- / uaintance…” (II, v, 162-163), and later goes on to say, “I do not now fool myself…/ that my lady loves me… / in this she manifests herself to my love…” (II, v, 164, 165, 168). In his reaction to the letter, he never tells of his love for Olivia, but only says that he knew that Olivia loved him. When he goes to woo, Olivia rightly declares his behavior to be “midsummer madness” (III, iv, 58). Malvolio did not truly love Olivia, but only saw her as a tool to legitimize and to increase his narcissism with an increased social status. By rejecting his advances, Olivia metaphorically declares his want of a marriage based on external benefits and not mutual love (i.e. one in which Malvolio receives all the power and the love and does not have to give anything to the other person) to be completely
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