Act 1 scene 1
The play begins with introducing the character of duke Orsino who is presented as being ‘lovesick’ for the duchess Olivia. We learn from one of Orsino’s gentlemen valentine that Olivia is mourning for her dead brother and is going to stay in mourning for 7 years. Orsino thinks that this is great as he believes that if Olivia can love her brother with so much passion she will be even more passionate towards him, when she falls in love with him which of course Orsino thinks is inevitable. Key quotes
| ‘if music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it surfeiting’
| This quote gives us the impression that Orsino is a petrarchan lover who is more in love with the idea of being love than with Olivia herself. This is further highlighted by the fact he doesn’t mention Olivia until line 20.‘Excess’ is a motif which runs throughout the play.
| ‘enough no more’
| Suggests Orsino’s fickleness as he quickly changes his mind on whether he wants to listen to music.
| ‘receiveth the sea’
| Could be a cataphoric reference to viola who will appear from the sea and who eventually ends up marrying Orsino. The sea is used by Orsino many times to describe his love.
| ‘the noblest I have’
| Suggests Orsino’s self importance as he calls himself ‘noble’. Suggests a narcissistic personality.
| ‘she purged the air of pestilence’
| This unrealistic statement symbolises orsino’s unrealistic love for Olivia, as obviously she cannot rid the air of plague.
| ‘my desires, like fell and cruel hounds’
| Orsino self loved is pursued by his own desires.
| ‘please my lord, I might not be admitted’
| The fact that Orsino does not go himself to woo Olivia suggests his love for her is not true.
| Other key points
* Orsino refers to the legend of actaeon who was a huntsman who was turned into a deer and torn into pieces by his own hounds as a punishment for watching the virginal goddess Diana bathing. * Olivia is presented as a similar character to Olivia as they are both ruled by strong emotions. * Comedy could be created by the exaggeration of the character of Orsino as the stereotypical character who is in love with love and himself. Act 1 scene 2
This scene introduces the character of viola taking place soon after she has just been shipwrecked. It is understood that viola was very lucky to survive the shipwreck and drowning and that it is very unlikely that her twin brother is still alive. Viola learns that the play is set on the Illyrian coast and is ruled by count Orsino. Viola learns that Orsino is trying to woo the duchess Olivia however he has so far failed as since Olivia’s father and brother have died she had ‘abjured the company and sight of men’. Viola feels sympathy for Olivia as she too thinks she has lost both her father and brother. However the captain explains that Olivia ‘will not admit no kind of suit’ and viola decides (bizarrely) to pretend to be a eunuch and go and work for Orsino. Character
| ‘What country friends, is this?
| The fact viola’s first line in the play is a question suggests she is a resourceful character and is intelligent as she is thinking about her situation rather than succumbing to grief unlike Olivia.
| ‘and so perchance may he be’
| Viola’s quick answered pun of the captain use of ‘perchance’ immediately presents viola as a quick witted and intelligent character.
| ‘a noble duke, in nature as in name’
| The captain’s opinion of Orsino is positive which would suggest he is good at his job and is well respected.
| ‘he was a bachelor then’
| Possibly foreshadows the fact that Orsino could be a potential love interest for viola.
| Key points
* Viola entrance in Illyria by water makes literal two images depicted from the previous scene- Orsino’s speech about...
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