Twelfth Night: Orsino 'in love with love?'

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During the opening speech of the play, Orsino neither talks nor refers to Olivia but simply dwells on the concept of love and he also states, “Give me excess of it...The appetite may sicken and die” which depicts a man who desires the mere thought of love to sickness and death. The constant use of sensory images could show that love has flooded all five of his senses, for example, “o’er my ear like the sweet sound” and finally by telling the musicians to “play on”, he illustrates his want for love to flourish and grow. Upon the news of Olivia’s seven year’s mourning for her deceased brother Orsino shows no remorse but continues to talk about love and how she has lost “the flock of all affections else”. It could be said that he is pleased because her mourning may allow him to wallow in the thought of love, in a ‘rejected love’, for longer. Furthermore, Orsino dispatches messengers such as `Cesario’ to “unfold the passion of [his] love”. If he were in love with Olivia, he would have grown impatient and have visited her himself but he does not. It could be interpreted as hiding behind courtly love to extend his time in this ‘rejected love’. Finally, note that he speaks of love in the abstract, not as a feeling but as a being. This shows his desire for love to be whole so he may totally embrace it. All of this supports the theory that Orsino is “in love with love” because love is the sole theme of his thoughts, speech and actions. However, there is another side to the interpretation. That is that to be ‘in love’ is precisely that one is ‘in love”. It could be said that Orsino is so in love with Olivia that he has completely embraced love as a being and he dwells upon it because it’s the bond he feels towards her. Orsino is so scarce in the play that it makes it difficult to decide whether or not he is indeed “in love with love” and I believe that with more
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