Twelfth Night, or What You Will
‘What is love?’ asks Feste the clown in one of his songs. It is a very old question. One of the most influential answers to it comes from ancient Greece in the imaginary voice of the comic dramatist Aristophanes in Plato’s dialogue the Symposium. Love, says Aristophanes, is a quest, a journey in search of our lost other half.
Viola and her twin brother Sebastian have been shipwrecked off the coast of Illyria. Each believes that the other has been drowned.Viola disguises herself as a boy and, under the name of Cesario, enters the service of the duke Orsino.The duke sends Cesario to woo the lady Olivia on his behalf, but Olivia falls in love with the lovely ‘boy’.Viola/Cesario, meanwhile, has fallen in love with Orsino. and he too arrives in Illyria.Olivia meets Sebastian and, mistaking him for Cesario, arranges for them to be secretly married. Further confusion follows upon mistakes as to the identity of the twins.
ORSINO : If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it, that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken and so die.
That strain again, it had a dying fall:
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour. Enough, no more,
'Tis not so sweet now as it was before.
O spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou
That, notwithstanding thy capacity,
Receiveth as the sea. Nought enters there,
Of what validity and pitch soe'er,
But falls into abatement and low price
Even in a minute. So full of shapes is fancy
That it alone is high fantastical.
Introduction to Twelfth Night, or What You Will