Shakespeare and Love Confession

Source: Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night. 


Make me a willow cabin at your gate, 
And call upon my soul within the house;
Write loyal cantons of contemned love 
And sing them loud even in the dead of night; 
Halloo your name to the reverberate hills 
And make the babbling gossip of the air 
Cry out ‘Olivia!’ O, You should not rest
Between the elements of air and earth, 
But you should pity me! (1.5.559-67)


The theatrical writing style in plays, especially Shakespeare’s, has always been quite distinguished from the traditional prose. Here the text ties more directly with verbal performing, and therefore besides the usual rhetorical uses, playwrights have to also consider the mnemonic aspect when writing lines for his characters. In other words, there needs to be a balance between writing stylistically and making sure actors are able to remember and perform their lines creatively. 

In this case, Viola’s (as Cesario) speech from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is an excellent example of the play language. Even though the old English might shun away most modern readers, Shakespeare’s use of iambic pentameter mixed with the conversational language still creates a memorable rhythm that makes people want to read out loud. In addition, since the speech is a love confession, the romantic language is displayed clearly through creative imagery as well as diction: “willow cabin,” “the dead of night,” “reverberate hills” and “babbling whisper of the air.” These phrases make the love confession peculiar to the play’s specific period of time, revealing a part of the society and its language at the time. As time past, this eventually becomes the play’s “stylistic identity” that makes it stand out from every other play. 

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