The Development of Twelfth Night Act I

Essay by mrscapsparrowCollege, Undergraduate September 2007

download word file, 2 pages 3.8

Act I of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night conjures up several distinctive thoughts. The play’s elements of comedy and tragedy are constant, creating a story full of adventure, movement and puns. However, the prevalence of impulses and the somewhat distorted view of love found within the beginning act cause a warped and at times illogical tale to emerge. It is for these reasons that I was most strongly impacted by the first act’s tendency to move at an accelerated rate and thereby to sacrifice what I find are key elements of the story.

The theme of distorted love was without a doubt a central aspect of Act I. All of the characters’ emotions seem to be driven by their belief in love at first sight. Both Viola and Olivia fall for their love interest with days, even minutes, of first meeting them. Viola’s declaration “whoe’er I woo, myself would be his wife” (I, iv, 42) referring to the Duke comes as a complete surprise.

These strong emotions to wed develop within three days of their meeting, and there is minimal information given as to their origin. The love story between Olivia and Cesario is also very rushed and without reason. After one encounter with Cesario, Olivia talks about love saying “even so quickly may one catch the plague?” (I, v, 299) which demonstrates how rapidly these emotions have developed for her.

Characters continue to act on little more than whims throughout Act 1, hastening the storyline with little time for logic. Within minutes of being introduced to Viola in scene II, she makes the leap from being just washed up from a shipwreck to deciding that it is necessary for her to dress up as a man in order to work for the Duke. Viola’s quickly made decision to become a...