Theme of Love in Much Ado and Twelfth Night

1783 Words May 14th, 2011 8 Pages
AS English Literature – Unit 2 (Coursework)

EXPLORATIVE STUDY

Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is studied and his Much Ado About Nothing is used to explore the theme of love. Performances are referred to.

Shakespeare's romantic comedies explore love, the “divine passion”, in all its moods and intensities. Most characters in these two plays are in love, find love or seek it. Twelfth Night, reputedly the most mature of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies, weaves several such love stories into an intricate collage to explore different types of love and its easy descent into pain or folly.

John Gross, in a 1991 review of Twelfth Night in the Sunday Telegraph, said “Twelfth Night is about true love and its egocentric counterfeits.” Orsino’s
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The Viola-Orsino and Benedick-Beatrice loves are comparable, since both are constant, clear-eyed, and more based on a weathered and thorough understanding of each other than on mere physical attraction – theirs is the ‘marriage of true minds’. Even true love could be silly though, as Kenneth Branagh, playing Benedick in his 1993 version, displays in his antics when bitten by the lovebug; Newsweek, in a 1993 review of this adaptation, aptly judged it as portraying “the absolute absurdity and absurd absoluteness of love.”

In comparison, though Claudio is genuinely attracted to Hero, his love seems fickle, jealous and immature. Claudio, a ‘sensible’ conventional wooer, first verifies Hero’s social and financial compatibility (“Hath Leonato any son...?”), but their relationship lacks trust and instinctive understanding of each other. This is the reason Claudio believes Don John’s intrigue, though Hero, being sweet and submissive, remains true to him regardless of his treatment of her. Their union therefore seems less sound than Beatrice and Benedick’s and less acceptable to a modern audience, which is probably why, in the 2005 Shakespeare Retold version of Much Ado, Hero declines Claude’s second offer.

Sebastian and Olivia’s love too, though true, doesn’t seem on par with the Viola-Orsino and Beatrice-Benedick loves in terms of depth and appreciation of each other. Despite falling in love in a flash and being united only by a “flood
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