Twelfth Night Act 1 Essay

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Topics: Love
How is the play introduced in Act one of Twelfth Night?
In the first scene of Act 1 we are introduced to Orsino. This whole scene is dedicated towards advocating his love for Olivia, a countess. It seems that Duke Orsino’s lust for Olivia is more ideal than actual. It is depicted as a self-indulgent emotion; he is more engulfed by the image and concept of love as opposed to its actual entailments. This is supported by the fact he talks about love for a long time without even mentioning Olivia’s name, reflecting the fake obsession. Orsino is also depicted as a fake courtly lover (aristocratic love) as he believes it imperative he sends a servant to declare his love for Olivia. Real love is impetuous as actions are taken without thought of consequence or judgement. The fact alone that Orsino sending a servant to declare his love emanates the truth that he is in love with the idea of love - as opposed to actually being in love with Olivia. Duke Orsino uses hyperbolic speech: ‘if music be the food of love play on, give me excess of it, that surfeiting, the appetite may sicken and so die’. Here Duke Orsino is expressing his moody, romantic temperament amongst his static lovesick atmosphere. He is saying that if music fuels love he wants to be drowned in it to end his hopeless obsession of love as it sickens him. This quote implies love is starving him of all other emotion and that it is making everything else inconsequential; he cannot function whilst its presence is not declared. However if he was honestly in love with Olivia he would make the effort to declare this himself, despite tradition of sending a servant. Orsino is clearly detached from the meaning of love as he sees it more as a promotion in status hierarchy. This obsession with love moves on to introduce one of the key themes in the play – madness.

Madness, most obviously shown through Orsino, is undeniably present in act 1. Many believe that Duke Orsino’s obsession with love is a reflection of

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