Viola to Orsino, Act V of “Twelfth Night,” lines 2471-4

I. Something about love actually can be tender:

And all those sayings will I overswear;
And those swearings keep as true in soul
As doth that orbed continent the fire
That severs day from night.

Viola to Orsino in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” Act 5

Finished a close read of Twelfth Night and this just leapt out at me. You say you love someone and want to wed them. That isn’t just feeling a certain way and having words to match the feeling. You make a pledge beyond yourself (“overswear”). Those “swearings” (not mere “sayings”) are the plane of the sun, a realm to itself. The sun is the brightness that marks the heavens. By itself, it is nothing – you’ve pledged beyond yourself. But the metaphor brings us to the time and space the sun creates. That time and space is being married; the pledge is its fulfillment. The swearings “keep as true in soul” because one is living them out, daily.

II. And yet. Charles Johnson of LGF linked to an extremely ugly piece at NR, singling it out rightly for shame: Kevin Williamson’s “Like a Boss.” Look, I hang around a lot of young people who take conservatism as seriously as they do their religion. I know for a fact it is possible to teach sexism and set the dignity of women back centuries. You don’t need laws, all you need is dogma and bullying. That can happen at any level, anywhere, and I can’t stress the need for vigilance.

I think it’s time for me to put an end to this conservative fascination with manliness. It is an important topic in terms of critiquing heroes and gods in literature. It does have political implications when the questions become that of “spiritedness” and the relation of war to the state. It is critical to any historical understanding of an aristocracy. But enough is enough. Those are serious topics for people who are not out to score cheap political points. They’re for people who are grown men and women and understand that what we do as human beings is valuable, somehow. They’re for people who are not willing to rob others of dignity because they can.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.