Twelfth Night

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Twelfth Night Act 2, scene 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next day, Orsino lounges in his palace as usual, attended by Cesario, Curio, and other servants and musicians. Orsino sends for Feste, to sing. While Curio looks for him, the musicians start playing.
Repetitive scenes in Orsino's palace show the paralyzing stasis of his love-melancholy. This melancholy is always linked with artistic or musical performances
Themes
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Orsino tells Cesario that, if he is ever in love, he must remember and imitate Orsino's passion for Olivia. Noticing that Cesario seems moved by the music, Orsino then asks whether he is not himself in love. Cesario—who is in fact in love with Orsino—confesses that he is. Orsino asks what Cesario's beloved is like. Cesario responds that she is very similar to Orsino, in both appearance and age. Orsino tells Cesario that this woman cannot be worthy: because men's passions are less stable than those of women, and women quickly lose their beauty with age, men should always take younger wives.
For the first time in the play, Orsino responds to the emotions of someone besides himself. Although blinded by Viola's disguise, he cannot see the irony that the audience does: he thinks that he shares only a master–servant relationship (like, for instance, Antonio and Sebastian in 2.1). Orsino's interest is also short-lived, and he soon returns to speaking in clichés (his discussion of women's beauty).
Themes
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Curio returns with Feste. Orsino instructs him to sing what he sang the previous night, a melodramatic lover's lament. After he sings, Orsino rewards Feste with a few coins, and Feste prays for the "melancholy god" to protect the Duke (2.4.72). Orsino dismisses everyone but Cesario.
More melancholy and musical performance. Feste's reference to the "melancholy god" is mocking since Orsino really does seem to worship melancholy. The self-obsessed Orsino doesn't notice.
Themes
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Orsino instructs Cesario to go woo Olivia once again on his behalf. Cesario suggests that Orsino give up. What if a woman loved Orsino just as he loves Olivia, and he did not requite her love? She would have to give up eventually. Orsino says no woman could love like he does. Cesario responds that his father had a daughter, very similar to Cesario, who once loved a man just as much as Orsino loves Olivia. The girl never confessed her love but pined away with melancholy. Orsino asks if she died of love. Cesario avoids the question. Orsino then sends Cesario with a jewel to Olivia, instructing him to hurry.
Viola's disguise is once again a source of dramatic irony: we know that Viola is talking about her own love-melancholy and near madness. Yet, with Orsino once again acting self-absorbed—he only briefly listens to the story—the scene suggests that perhaps Orsino's love is selfish: his total disregard for Olivia's feelings make it seem like he is more in love with the idea of love than with a real other person.
Themes
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
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