Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night


William Shakespeare

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Madness Theme Analysis

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Themes and Colors
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Twelfth Night, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Madness Theme Icon

The theme of madness in Twelfth Night often overlaps the themes of desire and love. Orsino talks about the faculty of love producing multiple changing images of the beloved, similar to hallucinations. Olivia remarks at certain points that desire for Cesario is making her mad. These examples of madness are mostly metaphorical: madness becomes a way for characters to express the intensity of their romantic feelings.

But the play also has multiple characters that seem to go literally mad. As part of the prank that Maria, Sir Toby, and Fabian play on Malvolio, they convince everyone that he is crazy. The confusion that results from characters' mixing up Viola/Cesario and Sebastian, after Sebastian's arrival in Illyria, also leads many of them to think that they have lost their minds. The general comedy and chaos that creates (and results from) this confusion also references the ritualized chaos of the Twelfth Night holiday in Renaissance England.

Related Themes from Other Texts
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Madness Quotes in Twelfth Night

Below you will find the important quotes in Twelfth Night related to the theme of Madness.
Act 3, scene 4 Quotes
Why, this is very midsummer madness.
Related Characters: Olivia (speaker), Malvolio
Page Number: 3.4.61
Explanation and Analysis:
Go hang yourselves all! You are idle shallow things; I am not of your element.
Related Characters: Malvolio (speaker), Maria, Sir Toby, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Feste, Fabian
Page Number: 3.4.132-133
Explanation and Analysis: