The Thematic Application of Music In "Twelfth Night"

Essay by mrscapsparrowCollege, UndergraduateB, September 2007

download word file, 4 pages 2.3

Downloaded 26 times

"If music be the food of love, play on…" With these words as the play's beginning, it comes as no surprise that the correlation between love and music turns out to be a significant motif of Twelfth Night, exploited often by Shakespeare and on several occasions. His incorporation of song and instrumentation in the midst of prose emphasizes the atmosphere of melancholy and comedy that the dialogue creates, playing off of the action and themes of the play. This thought certainly holds true for the music made by the clown Feste in Act II, scene IV. His short rhyme tells the painful story of the suffering that accompanies unrequited love, which has obvious ties to the love triangle found between Orsino, Viola and Olivia. Howevera closer analysis of this song may be used to uncover the further themes that it addresses - those of disguise and loss.

Shakespeare makes these themes more clear with his use of literary devices, such as metaphor, oxymoron, and symbolism in the song. It is the employment of these rhetorical figures within the song paired with its contrast between love and death that perpetuate the central theme of unrequited love based on disguise.

From unrequited love springs death. This overly dramatic statement serves as the story line of Feste's song, mirroring much of the story of Twelfth Night where three characters become the victims of an unreturned love. The dramatic and extreme metaphor of death that is employed, however, is most closely related to the similarly intense and exaggerated passion of Orsino. His flowery words and lamentations concerning his emotions, such as when he muses on the "spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou" (I.i.9), appear not to be directed at Olivia but rather love itself, revealing his nature as...