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Madness An Essential Element In The Workings

Of T Essay, Research Paper

All great literary works must have some type of underlying idea, for underlying ideas not only help to prove a writer s thesis, but also help to add to the plot s thesis and, in most instances, actually add to the enjoyment one can get out of the work. Following this idea, William Shakespeare wrote his comedy Twelfth Night with many such ideas. Perhaps the greatest and most notable of these ideas within the play was that of madness. Shakespeare s great play deals with madness in many senses through many different characters. The subject comes about through Orsino s love, Olivia s grief, and Malvolio s unfortunate and misunderstood foolishness. The madness that comes about in Shakespeare s Twelfth Night is an integral subject in the play, and it is this idea that creates so much of the comedy in the play and eventually helps to make the plot as a whole both believable and unique. William Shakespeare distinctly utilized the idea of madness through the person of Orsino and his dire love for the fair countess Olivia. Orsino truly was a man stricken with love; he was a man that was willing to do anything to see this love come to life and his greatest wishes answered. The love that the Duke possessed was clearly a destructive love that had a maddening affect on the Orsino himself. Shakespeare s great play begins with the Duke speaking of his love for Olivia. His words blatantly show the adverse affects his seeming obsession with the countess had on him. Speaking of love and the great care he has for the woman he loves, Orsino stated, So full of shapes is fancy / That [love] alone is high fantastical (I.i. 14-15). Orsino fully understood love s capabilities to alter and admitted how fantastical the idea was. He, however, did not realize that these capabilities to alter could be very damaging. Telling one of his attendees of his first encounter with his love, the Duke exclaimed, That instant was I turned into a hart, And my desires, like fell and cruel hounds, E er since pursue me (I.i. 22-24). Orsino completely confesses with this statement that his thoughts and feelings were completely changed with the introduction of Olivia. Everything he was to do or say would be affected by his thoughts and feelings for his love. In simple terms, the Duke was mad with love. As any madness would do, the obsession Orsino suffers completely undermines all his actions, and thus has profound influences on all that happen around him and ultimately in Shakespeare s plot as a whole. This madness, however, sets up for an exquisite ending in which this love-sickness is broken when the Duke finds love in Viola. Madness takes a very different, yet very influential, form through Olivia and the madness that is her mourning. Within just a short period of time, Olivia lost both her father and her brother. The grief that these great losses cause the young woman are clearly a form of madness. Just as Orsino s life was greatly altered by his obsession, Olivia s life was greatly altered by the hardships she had endured. Simply put, Olivia was angry at the world and upset with the life she was living. This idea is made clear so soon as she is introduced in the play. The young woman, speaking of the clown before her, stated, He speaks nothing but madman. Fie on him (I.v. 101-102). Olivia simply refuses to have a sense of humor. Her life is darkened by her great despair and this despair is clearly her madness. The more obvious result of her despair and subsequent madness, however, is her refusal to speak with any other men or to even allow the Duke to see her. The deaths in her family truly caused her to lose touch with men. The Captain pointed this out early in the play, telling Viola They say, she hath abjured the sight And company of men (I.ii. 40-41). Olivia did all this simply out of love for her brother and father, eventually creating a dismal lifestyle that would haunt her for the first part of the play. Her madness, however, allows for an eventual cure by play s end with her newfound love, just as Orsino s madness was cured by his love.

Shakespeare most clearly explored the idea of sanity through the occurrences that come about in the downfall of Malvolio. Malvolio was a man with great self-confidence and with the belief that he could transcend his current position in life and become a great man. His great pride, however, eventually causes a great mockery of him. It is his pride and confidence that allows the young steward to fall into a trap that makes a fool of him. The letter that Maria and Toby plant in Malvolio s path is believed by Malvolio simply because he is sure that his fate is great. Confident that his future with Olivia is promising, Malvolio proclaims, I do not now fool myself, to let imagination jade me, for every reason excites to this, that my lady loves me (II, v. 150-152). Malvolio s desire for wealth and love and the pride that came along with these goals completely masked his common sense and ability to accept his true standing. This great egotism directly corresponds to Malvolio s subsequent madness. Arguing with Maria and Toby, Malvolio exclaimed, Go hang yourselves all! You are idle shallow things; I am not of your element (III, iv. 115-116). Malvolio s confidence blinds him of the trick that his enemies had played on him and ultimately coincides with the madness and fool that is made of him. Malvolio s seeming madness is best displayed by his statement towards the clown while locked up because others claimed to fear him. While in this position, Malvolio said, I say this house is as dark as ignorance, though ignorance was dark as hell; and I say there was never man thus abused. I am no more mad than you are (IV.ii. 45-48). Malvolio completely contradicts himself in this thought. It is his ignorance, in fact, that causes his believed madness. Malvolio clearly was no mad man. He was simply an ignorant, arrogant man that generally refused to believe anything others below him said. Shakespeare makes this idea dramatically clear, and this idea leads to both great comedy and yet another great aspect of the ending of the book. William Shakespeare s Twelfth Night, like so many others of his works, is a true masterpiece. Much of the greatness the play has attained is directly due to the use of the idea of madness that presents itself throughout the comedy. Madness is apparent throughout the play, but becomes most lucid through the characters of Orsino, Olivia, and Malvolio. Though this madness may take shape because for numerable reasons including love, grief, and self-confidence, all types of madness had a similar affect on the outcome of the play. All these types clearly show how different events can effect a life. More importantly, however, all the madness in Twelfth Night supplies great comedy and ultimately allocates room for an ingenious ending to the play in which all madness is alleviated and all characters are happy.

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