Back to: Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
In Shakespearean works, literary devices are put to supreme use. The use of imagery is basic. Other literary devices are used excessively. Their occurrence in the play Twelfth Night is listed below.
The image of flowers is used as simile. It says. “For women are as roses, whose fair flower being once displayed, doth fall that very hour.”
Precious stones are used as metaphors. Feste says to Orsino that “thy mind is very opal.”
In a usual manner, Shakespeare uses the image of animals and birds. Here Orsino says, “I’ll sacrifice the lamb that I do love, to spite a raven’s heart within a dove.” Such a language reveals to us how untouched Orsino is from true love.
Personification is using something to describe an abstract idea. Olivia personifies Nature when she says that “tis beauty truly blent, whose red and white Nature’s own sweet and cunning hand laid on.”
Orsino is a Duke hence he is more learned than others. His language is full of metaphors. When he thinks that he has betrayed by Cesario/Viola, he compares her to a cunning fox cub and speaks about time as if it has features like human beings. He says, “O thou dissembling cub! What will thou be when time hath sow’d a grizzle on thy case?”
One example of alliteration is “He’s a great quarreller; and but that he hath the gift of a coward to allay the gust he hath the gift of a grave“.
The allusion is a literary device that is used to refer to something from other literature or history and brings its meaning to the current context. A sea captain talking about Sebastian during shipwreck says this to Viola, “There, like Arion in the Greek myth, who escaped from murder on the back of a dolphin, I saw him ride the waves as long as I could keep him in sight.”
Orsino’s expression of his feelings for Olivia is full of hyperbole. Viola describes this to Olivia when she asks how does he love me? She says that “Adoringly; with copious tears; with groans that thunder out their love; with passionate sighs.”
Shakespeare is perhaps one of the oldest masters of pun in the English language. A pun is a humorous play on words. When Orsino is asked by his servant whether he wants to go hunting, in a hyperbolic manner, he uses a pun to describe his love at first sight.
He says, “Only it’s my heart that’s being hunted. Oh, when I first saw Olivia, it seemed like she made the air around her sweeter and purer. In that instant I was transformed into a hart.”