The Signification Of Love In William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

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“If music be the food of love, play on” (1.1.1). The opening line of the play, Twelfth Night, quickly establishes the comedy’s intention to play on love. This quote by Orsino, the wealthy duke of Illyria, reveals that he is overwhelmed with love for the countess Olivia. Even though the metaphor reveals that Orsino is in love, the opening speech displays a striking connection between romance and imagination. As the duke continues his opening speech, the audience may start to question if Orsino’s love for Olivia is purely imagination. In the play Twelfth Night, Orsino is characterized as love-stricken. However, throughout the play Orsino is merely attracted to the idea of being in love and is not actually in love with Olivia or Viola. Thus, Orsino, …show more content…
Orsino says, “That, notwithstanding thy capacity, / Receiveth as the sea, naught enters there” (1.1.10-11). Orsino’s metaphor compares his capacity for love to the vastness of the sea. However, this metaphor also draws comparisons to the fluidity of Orsino’s love. The sea is always changing and shifting, just like Orsino’s love. The metaphor Orsino uses to compare his love foreshadows the conclusion of the play. In the conclusion, Orsino ends up marrying Viola instead of Olivia. The duke’s quick decision to marry Viola further conveys that Orsino is sentimentally in love with the idea of love. Orsino does not care whom he marries, as long as he is able to be in love. Another example of Orsino’s fluid love is when Feste compares him to an opal stone, later on in the play. Feste says that Orsino’s mind “is a very opal” (2.4.74). The significance of the opal stone is that the gem is always changing color based on perspective. Like the opal stone, Orsino’s love is always shifting and ultimately culminates in his decision to move on from Olivia and his decision to marry Viola. During his speech, Orsino also makes a comment that implicitly connects love and imagination. Orsino says that “So full of shapes is fancy / That it alone is high fantastical” (1.1.14-15). This remark Orsino makes reveals that love (“fancy”) takes over the lover’s imagination (“high fantastical”). This comment is ironic as it pertains to …show more content…
For example, after hearing the news that Olivia is in mourning, Orsino decides to lie down on his “sweet beds of flowers” (1.1.39) and dream about love because he believes “love thoughts lie rich when canopied with bowers” (1.1.40). Unlike a common person, Orsino’s reaction to Olivia’s mourning is one of joy and happiness. Upon hearing the news that Olivia will be “like a cloistress she will veiled walk” (1.1.27), Orsino is pleased that Olivia is able to devote so much of her love to her brother. Orsino’s shocking reaction to the news of Olivia’s brother’s passing further display’s Orsino’s unauthentic feelings for Olivia. Instead of acknowledging the sadness in Olivia’s life, Orsino is happy to hear that her long devotion to her brother reveals that she will be a loyal lover. This reaction reveals that Orsino’s love for Olivia is not one of authenticity. Orsino’s romantic love for Olivia does not stem from Olivia herself; instead, Orsino is merely in love with the idea of being in love with

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