Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night


William Shakespeare

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Melancholy 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.
Melancholy Theme Icon

During the Renaissance, melancholy was believed to be a sickness rather like modern depression, resulting from an imbalance in the fluids making up the human body. Melancholy was thought to arise from love: primarily narcissistic self-love or unrequited romantic love. Several characters in Twelfth Night suffer from some version of love-melancholy. Orsino exhibits many symptoms of the disease (including lethargy, inactivity, and interest in music and poetry). Dressed up as Cesario, Viola describes herself as dying of melancholy, because she is unable to act on her love for Orsino. Olivia also describes Malvolio as melancholy and blames it on his narcissism.

Through its emphasis on melancholy, Twelfth Night reveals the painfulness of love. At the same time, just as the play satirizes the way in which its more excessive characters act in proclaiming their love, it also satirizes some instances of melancholy and mourning that are exaggerated or insincere. For instance, while Viola seems to experience profound pain at her inability to be with Orsino, Orsino is cured of the intense lovesickness he experienced for Olivia as soon as he learns that Viola is available.

Related Themes from Other Texts
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Melancholy Quotes in Twelfth Night

Below you will find the important quotes in Twelfth Night related to the theme of Melancholy.
Act 1, scene 1 Quotes
If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
Related Characters: Orsino (speaker)
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 1.1.1-3
Explanation and Analysis:
So full of shapes is fancy
That it alone is high fantastical.
Related Characters: Orsino (speaker)
Related Symbols: Hallucination
Page Number: 1.1.14-15
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 1, scene 3 Quotes
I am a great eater of beef, and I believe that does harm to my wit.
Related Characters: Sir Andrew Aguecheek (speaker)
Page Number: 1.3.85-86
Explanation and Analysis:
I would I had bestowed that time in the tongues, that I have in fencing, dancing and bear-baiting: O, had I but followed the arts!
Related Characters: Sir Andrew Aguecheek (speaker)
Page Number: 1.3.91-94
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 1, scene 5 Quotes
Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.
Related Characters: Feste (speaker)
Page Number: 1.5.34
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, scene 4 Quotes
Now the melancholy god protect thee, and the tailor make thy doublet of changeable taffeta, for thy mind is a very opal.
Related Characters: Feste (speaker), Orsino
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 2.4.80-82
Explanation and Analysis:
Viola: My father had a daughter loved a man,
As it might be, perhaps, were I a woman,
I should your lordship.
Orsino: And what's her history?
Viola: A blank, my lord. She never told her love,
But let concealment, like a worm i' the bud,
Feed on her damask cheek: she pined in thought,
And with a green and yellow melancholy
She sat like patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed?
Related Characters: Viola (Cesario) (speaker), Orsino (speaker)
Related Symbols: Costumes
Page Number: 2.4.118-127
Explanation and Analysis: