Character Analysis: Duke Orsino (Twelfth Night)

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n this essay we are going to focus in one of the characters of Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night: Duke Orsino. Orsino is the first character that we see on stage in Twelfth Night. He is a Duke, and he is in love with a girl called Olivia. Olivia is mourning the loss of her brother. In Elizabethan society, women had to obey their fathers in choosing their future husbands, but we have to realize that Olivia is free to choose her man, because he has no father and no brother. This is a clear innovation which Shakespeare uses to make Olivia feel free, which will be very useful as a literary device to make the plot of the comedy more complicated, and to make Orsino insist to get her favour. In the beginning of the play (Act 1, scene i) we see Duke Orsino listening to his court, which is playing music. He first asks for more music to fill himself with love to feel totally depressed. In this scene music must be interpreted as our emotions; so Orsino wants to find a cure to his depression, and maybe through an excess of love (music) he can kill it. "If music be the food of love play on, give me excess of it, that surfeiting, The appetite may sicken and so die ......" “It appears form this quote that Orsino is in love with the idea of being in love. His speech is full of melodramatic words which show that he is over indulgent of love. His feelings of love for Olivia are so intense that he seems overwhelmed by his thoughts of her. As Orsino feels so fanatical about pursuing Olivia, you could claim that he is obsessed with her. The Duke is drawn to an emotion which he believes is love.” (Love in Twelfth Night). In this first parliament he uses the conditional, because he doesn’t know what is going to happen to him, the situation is uncertain. We can remark that Shakespeare establishes a relation between love and music, what makes us see how the author describes Orsino
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