notes for 12th night essay.


Statement 2.4.96: context: Orsino is frustrated at Olivia rebuffing his advances – courtly love via Viola. He sees women as physically leaky in this area and has already reminded V of the passing of time. She is aware of this and in her male disguise is trying to hold onto her feelings…

V will refute this statement or at least show her knowledge of true feelings 2.4.105_ she knows ” too well what love women to men may owe” owe=feel not modern sense. Story of girl pining for loss of love- image 110 – worm I’the’ bud/ feed upon her damask cheek.. Smiling at grief. Story is an invention caused by her disguise, but it shows her attitude… Romantic love

Sense of longevity of love is first seen in 1.5.256″ If I did love you” as V lays out to Oliv exactly how she might pursue a suit (will Cause complications) again shows her mindset… long game –

Further evidence in the meting with oliv in 3.1 when V is having to fight off Olives protestations of love – swears by her “INNOCENCE AND YOUTH THAT SHE HAS ” ONE HEART, ONE BOSOM AND ONE TRUTH”. Word order!! Again circumstance is that she is protecting self, but the implication is tha tthis is her true character

In 5.1 Ors threatens to kill V for her betrayal – still unable to reveal her secret V says 127 -… I most jocund… to do you rest a thousand deaths would die”. Death is preferable to letting down her love . .nB in a play built round exploration of sexual tensions and types of love, this is as close as V comes before the revelation to stating her love in sexual terms – die=orgasm. She follows the speech with a reply to Oliv that calls for “witnesses above” – god – to punish her life if her love of a strength – ” more than I love these eyes, more than my life” is shown to be feigned or unreliable 130ff.

Viola’s “barful strife” ends with declarations of love – 5.1.263 Ors: “Thou hast said to me a thousand times/Thou never shouldst love woman like to me” – never in the play – Shax hinting at Vs difficulty in maintaining the semblance of not being in love, having to express her love in some form.-V responds that her love will be maintained in her soul with the constancy of the sun.

This love contrasts with COURTLY LOVE as seen in 1.5> V has learnt Orsino’s speeches to deliver love at second hand. Oliv is not impressed: “it is more likely to be feigned” 1.5.191 dialogue of crossed purposes, full of familiar sea imagery…hoist sail/swabber… sugges tthat Oliv will also be steadfast in her love – Sibling. NB also sibling love:

Oliv is mocked for her depth of sibling love – Feste is able to call her a fool and catechise proof/ Sir T is scathing…. But even if the love is overdone- important to no e the two females having such love for (male) siblings. Olivia is able to briefly mourn in 1.2 before her personal situation demands a different response. Olivia is able to shrug off mourning swiftly once she decides to woo Cesario- maybe not wholly “retentive” – shows V in a stronger light and recognises natural limits to anything! When in 5.1 230f Viola and Sebastian meet, the pair tracew out lineage and appearance in poetry reminiscent of lovers – they refer to each other as spirits and surely it is only because of the need to maintain the comedy, the tension is broken not by a lovers’ embrace but by Seb’s joke ” you would have been contracted to a maid” – at Olivia’s expense.

12th shows utterly resourceful and loving woman able to withstand all that fate sends without altering her love…Shax sems to feel both genders… FLEA, written by John Donne – 16th C metaphysical dean of St Paul’s cathedral looks at another form of love from a distinctly masculine perspective. Poem concerns a man trying to woo his woman – wants to make love… she withstands his desires… focus is similar to Orsino/Olivia but from a world without courtly love present: This man is breaking with unrequited lust – woman is therefore the more powerful (as long as this remains a philosophical question). Donne uses arguments to break down the “retention£” of his lady: the poem is an extended metaphor comparing the flea to the man desirous of love:
1st stanza focuses on a clear comparison – flea has “our two bloods mingled” and will, in time swell “with one blood made of two”. Clear links to sexual intercourse and pregnancy can be seen here. The tone is one of regret – “Alas, (is) more than wee would doe”.

Persuasion in Stanza 2 links the pair and the flea with Donne suggesting that to kill the flea is tantamount to killing their love – the pair have had some form of relationship though are not married – sense of urgency “Oh stay” as she is about to kill the flea, as man gets more desperate – the relationship is against the parents’ wishes and she is seen as jeopardising the relationship and therefore her reputation by killing the flea – not allowing the man to perform the same intimate acts as it has done.

By Stanza 3 she has killed the fleaand Donne upbraids her – turning the image- Just so much honor, when thou yeeld’st to me/ will wast, as this flea’s death tooke life from thee. Suddenly showing how little she has to lose form sex – the honour thaT SHE WILL LOSE will mean as much to her as the flea’s death. Language is overtly sexual throughout – focus on sensual verbs/nooiuns – suckt, pamoperd, swells, maidenhead, and the idea of death running throughout – self death=masturbation if Elisabethan die=orgasm is carried – language is double layered throughout.

Female is said to have triumph’st- her “retention has defeated the male who is somewhat bitterias a result. Again Orsino’s jaundiced comment is not upheld.

OTHER POEMS seem to focus on men as the less reliable gender: Whilst Shax, perhaps unsurprisingly is able to portray a woman’s love as “eternal summer” which “shall not fade” in Shall I compare thee and Walshe in A woman to her lover lists the manner in which a woman will not be wooed – a bondslave, “a wingless angel who can do no wrong”, a doting sex-object, and instead focuses on the equality of marriage… a “co-equal” love based on comradeship, friendship and sexual union – “mate”. This latter is picked up again as they “live and work, to love and die with you” with die carrying the usual double meaning.
Other poems are not so kind: In Rosetti’s” Cousin Kate” the wealthy male is an object worthy of despisal and the narrator is seen now as an “outcast thing” -not even a person. This is due to the rise in awareness of the position of women in Victorian society, but we are left with a strong sense that it is the male predator who is at fault – he may have lifted Kate form “mean estate/to sit with him on high, but this was not an act of generosity or altruism.

The idea is continued in Graves 20th century response to love Frosty Night : Graves creates an unnatural June night when “soft and thick the snow lay” and in the dialogue a girl returns home pale and wan despite the fact that her “feet were dancing/seemed to dance on air” – the image is of a “ghost or angel” – all images of a lack of passion… the punch comes in the penultimate line – mother’s question “who was it said “I love you?”” and the question, linked with the imagery -as far removed from Shall I compare you as it is possible to be. There is ambiguity in the last line – the daughter asks her mother to “let me go” – she seeks freedom and the reader is aware that the frost may well be more a part of the mother’s fears regarding males and the loss of her fledgling rather than of any definite threat to her daughter.

Duffy addresses the issues of male infidelity in another way: she rejects the traditional frippery of romance in favour of the gift of an onion. The force of this gift – its “fierce” kiss, and “paltinum hoops” will serve as a wedding ring and in a powerful single word line prove : “lethal” as its scent will cling to his fingers and his knife. This seems to introduce the threat of of violence and given the phallic nature of the knife, possibly to sexual ownership.

Orsino is seen to be wrong in most of these examples. Indeed the selection of poetry seems to suggest that MEN ARE MORE Likely to be the weaker partner… fear of cuckoldry is a common theme of Elisabethan writing which is absent here, both in the play and these poems. It is the women writing in the 19/20 Cs that begin to assert women’s rights in this area, though it is Shax who, in 12 night seems to be able to view the problem from both sides.