How Is the Theme of Love Presented in Act 1 of Twelfth Night?

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Love is frequently presented in William Shakespeare’s play ‘Twelfth Night’ and can be interpreted in many ways. It is first shown in the beginning lines of the play, when the Duke, Orsino, laments that he is lovesick, and wishes that ‘if music be the food of love,’ he could kill his unrequited love through an overdose of music. The Duke describes love as if it is a living thing; something which requires a separate entity in order to maintain itself, as if music is the food of love. This is an interesting way to see it, and simplifies what the definition of love perhaps is. On the other hand, as music is not a tanglible substance, it could infer that music is the feeder of love, rather than being the food itself. As music is frequently used to portray love, this could (metaphorically) make sense. His servant, Curio, asks Orsino if he will go and hunt; Orsino answers with another lovelorn reply, about how his love for the Lady Olivia has been tearing him apart. However, this line could be read as Orsino saying his thoughts aloud, as if to analyse the situation reasonably, though the quote suggests an inevitable under layer of depression, as his love is not returned, and furthermore feels he has become obsessed with his love for Olivia. Another possible interpretation of Orsino’s thoughts could be seen as him as not being consumed with love itself, but indulging the idea of it. Therefore, he does not necessarily truly love Olivia, but has heard about love and desires to participate in the feeling. This is an example of courtly love, where only by long devotion and much suffering could a man win his ideal woman, where such love was sexless and idealised. In reality, it usually meant that men like Orsino were in love with the idea of love, rather than love itself. Overall, it is made clear that love will be a main theme of ‘Twelfth Night’ as it presents itself within the
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