More Shakespeare! ’Tis the season, after all. Well, not really, in the case of Twelfth Night, since the title refers to the twelfth night of Christmas, in spite of the fact that the plot has nothing to do with Christmas whatsoever.
A fun fact not often mentioned at summer Shakespeare festivals!
Anyway, we’re jumping from the most traditional triangle on the list in the #5 spot to the most unconventional at #4. This one’s less a love triangle than a love recyclables symbol.
Viola gets separated from her twin brother, Sebastian, in a shipwreck that leaves her stranded in Illyria, a place she knows nothing about. This being a dangerous and inconvenient time to be an unescorted woman, she disguises herself as a man, the way all the coolest Shakespearean women do, puts on her best impression of her brother, and gets herself a job running errands for a local Duke.
Seems like a perfect way to take care of herself in a strange place until she can figure out her next move. Except that Duke Orsino turns out to be hot.
Unfortunately, Olivia’s a sucker for the bad boy. She falls harder for Viola’s new male persona the more Viola tries to stop her.
So Viola loves Orsino loves Olivia loves Viola.
This one’s a comedy, where all will be well. Our heroine gets the guy, and Olivia is not forgotten. Remember that twin brother Viola copied her appearance and mannerisms from? The two of them hit it off nicely when he washes ashore and comes looking for his sister.
So why is Twelfth Night on this list? Because as useful as stories are for brutally mirroring the hardest parts of the human experience, sometimes we need one to help us laugh at a good, silly caricature of our problems. Love belongs in farces as much as tearjerkers.
This is also one of those rare love triangles involving two women who aren’t interchangeable, neither of whom is evil. Those certainly deserve credit wherever they come up.
And the fact that it involves a guy who starts out wrapped up in a shallow, aesthetic, abstract idea of love coming to appreciate the cool, practical girl waiting under his nose, oh, and that it was written in 1602…