Twelfth Night

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The Duke and ruler of Illyria. At the beginning of the play Orsino is obsessed by his unrequited love for Olivia . However, in the final scene, when Orsino discovers that Cesario is in fact the woman, Viola—and that Olivia has already married Viola's twin brother, Sebastian—he quickly proposes to Viola. Because the language and gestures he uses to talk about love are so melodramatic, and because he switches from Olivia to Viola so quickly, Orsino seems more in love with the idea of love and his own role as a spurned lover, than to actually be in love. His constant self-indulgent complaints about his lovesickness also display his extreme self-centeredness. Critics have also noted that, in the final scene, he seems to be attracted to Cesario as Cesario—that is, to Viola in her male persona.

Orsino Quotes in Twelfth Night

The Twelfth Night quotes below are all either spoken by Orsino or refer to Orsino. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Desire and Love Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of Twelfth Night published in 2004.
Act 1, scene 1 Quotes
If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
Related Characters: Orsino (speaker)
Page Number: 1.1.1-3
Explanation and Analysis:

The play opens with Orsino, the Duke of Illyria, listening to music and lamenting about love. Twelfth Night is a play about excess, as during Shakespeare's time, people would celebrate Christmas for twelve nights, partying and drinking. It is also a play about the overbearing nature of love and the madness that comes from it. From the very first line of the play, Orsino's language is over the top. He desires so much love that it makes him melancholy, even sick. As he sits in his court, he stops the music playing in the background, claiming it makes him too sad to listen to. Listening to music and spewing cliches of love, Orsino seems to be performing the act of the saddened lover. Yet the irony here is that he also seems to be enjoying it. We will see that Orsino's vision of "love" is both fickle and performative. He loves the idea of love but may not truly know what it feels like yet.

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So full of shapes is fancy
That it alone is high fantastical.
Related Characters: Orsino (speaker)
Related Symbols: Hallucination
Page Number: 1.1.14-15
Explanation and Analysis:

In his first speech, Orsino laments the melancholy nature of love. He notes that love can manifest itself in many different ways, making it magical. Thus, he argues, love "alone" is the only true form of imagination. This moment gives readers an insight into Orsino's views on love, and also foreshadows the "shapes" and disguises characters will take on throughout Twelfth Night. Orsino's speech is dramatic and excessive. While he enjoys talking about love,we will learn that his feelings are actually quite fickle. He loves the idea of love as well as performing the act of being melancholy and heartbroken. In this speech he also sets the stage for love to be seen as a magical and deceptive undertaking, something that will appear more clear as Viola and Olivia begin their own journeys in the play. 

Act 1, scene 4 Quotes
Thy small pipe
Is as the maiden's organ, shrill and sound,
And all is semblative a woman's part.
Related Characters: Orsino (speaker), Viola (Cesario)
Page Number: 1.4.35-37
Explanation and Analysis:

Viola has disguised herself as a young pageboy named Cesario, and now resides in Orsino's court. Orsino has begun to rely on Cesario for advice and information on Olivia. He asks her to go to Olivia's home and woo her for him using any means necessary. In this moment Orsino tells Cesario that she may be able to persuade Olivia because she resembles and sounds like a woman, suggesting that Olivia may be more comfortable in the presence of a prepubescent boy than Orsino himself. Here Shakespeare notes the confusing nature of Viola's disguise and how it plays to the advantage of Orsino. Olivia has sworn off the presence of men, so Orsino uses the femininity of Cesario (Viola) to his advantage. There is also a sense of freedom that comes for Viola-as-Cesario. As a man she can walk the court freely and be independent, and she can also have a friendship with Orsino as well as be his confidant. This allows her to see Orsino as he truly is from the start; something she never would have been able to do as a young woman.  

Act 1, scene 5 Quotes
Make me a willow cabin at your gate
And call upon my soul within the house;
Write loyal cantons of contemned love
And sing them loud even in the dead of night;
Halloo your name to the reverberate hills
And make the babbling gossip of the air
Cry out 'Olivia!' O, You should not rest
Between the elements of air and earth
But you should pity me.
Related Characters: Viola (Cesario) (speaker), Orsino, Olivia
Page Number: 1.5.271-279
Explanation and Analysis:

In an attempt to get Olivia to fall in love with Orsino, Cesario (Viola) describes what he would do if he loved Olivia as much as Orsino. In a beautiful speech he tells her that he would write endless poems of his love, sing them through the night and scream her name so loudly that the air would echo the sound of "Olivia." In her speech, Viola-As-Cesario does something Orsino cannot; she says the right thing to make Olivia fall in love. Juxtaposed against Orsino's cliche speeches on love and lust, Viola's are much more creative and subtle. She performs less, and rather actually imagines what it means to be in love. She also uses natural imagery, suggesting that her love is simple and truthful. What is more, as a woman, Viola understands the needs and interests of other women.  Being of the same gender, she is able to find ways to appeal to Olivia that differ from Orsino's.

Act 2, scene 4 Quotes
Let still the woman take
An elder than herself: so wears she to him,
So sways she level in her husband's heart:
For, boy, however we do praise ourselves,
Our fancies are more giddy and unfirm,
More longing, wavering, sooner lost and worn,
Than women's are.
Related Characters: Orsino (speaker), Viola (Cesario)
Page Number: 2.4.34-40
Explanation and Analysis:
 Cesario (Viola) and Orsino sit listening to music, and Orsino asks Casario if he has ever been in love. Cesario says yes. Not knowing that under the disguise Viola is confessing her love for him, Orsino tells Viola-as-Cesario that whoever this woman is, she is not worthy of his love because she is older than he is. Orsino encourages Cesario to instead marry someone younger than himelf. The reasoning he gives for this is that men are more wavering with love, they become less attracted to older women, and their feelings change and are "unfirm." Orsino points out that men long for more than women do and they fall out of love quickly. Orsino pauses in his excessive, cliched speech to have a truthful moment with Cesario, but he does not see the irony in it. He is, in fact discussing the wavering (but excessively powerful, he believes) nature of a man's love to Cesario, who is secretly a woman. He is blinded by Viola's disguise and speaks candidly and openly with her as Cesario, in a way that he never would if she were to appear as Viola.
Now the melancholy god protect thee, and the tailor make thy doublet of changeable taffeta, for thy mind is a very opal.
Related Characters: Feste (speaker), Orsino
Page Number: 2.4.80-82
Explanation and Analysis:
Feste sings a song to Orsino, and when Orsino asks him to leave, Feste sings this final segment, in which he mocks Orsino's melancholy nature. He calls upon Saturn, the Roman god associated with "melancholy," o protect him. He tells Orsino that he hopes he can find a tailor that can make him clothing that changes color, because his mind is "opal," an iridescent, cloudy stone, and he never seems to know what he wants. Because of his position as the fool, Feste has the ultimate freedom to poke fun at the masters without getting in trouble. Here he comments on the foolishness of Orsino's performative melancholy and sad, over-the-top musings on love. Yet Orsino is so involved in the song and his love that he doesn't notice the sarcasm. Love is all consuming for him. We also see here that Orsino's childish lamenting of love doesn't go unnoticed by members of the court, as well as his own fool. 
Viola: My father had a daughter loved a man,
As it might be, perhaps, were I a woman,
I should your lordship.
Orsino: And what's her history?
Viola: A blank, my lord. She never told her love,
But let concealment, like a worm i' the bud,
Feed on her damask cheek: she pined in thought,
And with a green and yellow melancholy
She sat like patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed?
Related Characters: Viola (Cesario) (speaker), Orsino (speaker)
Related Symbols: Costumes
Page Number: 2.4.118-127
Explanation and Analysis:

The self-absorbed Orsino tells Cesario (Viola) that no woman could ever love a man as much as he loves Olivia. Cesario disagrees. She then tells him her own story (of the love she has for Orsino) in a roundabout way, pretending it is the story of her sister. Orsino is blinded once again by Viola's disguise, unaware of the irony of the situation. She is confessing her love for him, but is shielded by the mask of Cesario. Her own love also mimics Orsino's in its strength and melancholy—but it's also suggested that, contrary to Orsino's sexist declaration about women's capacity for love, Viola's love for Orsino is more enduring and powerful than his love for Olivia.

Act 5, scene 1 Quotes
Give me thy hand
And let me see thee in thy woman's weeds.
Related Characters: Orsino (speaker), Viola (Cesario)
Related Symbols: Costumes
Page Number: 5.1.285-286
Explanation and Analysis:

After finally identifying herself as a woman of noble blood to Orsino, Viola tells the court that she will return to the captain of her ship who will rightly identify her and return her clothes to her. Orsino then takes her hand and asks to see her in her "woman's weeds," or women's clothing.

Here we see how fickle or performative Orsino's love for Olivia truly is. The moment Viola reveals herself and identifies herself as not only a woman but a high class woman, he falls in love with her. This could simply be a result of the fact that Orsino's love for Olivia was merely a performance, or it could be that through her disguise, Orsino has begun to learn so much about Viola, and to love her deeply as an effeminate male comrade, that he is instantly smitten when he discovers that she is actually a woman. Of course, there are also complex issues of gender at work here (particularly as during Shakespeare's time, all the female characters would have been played by male actors), which Shakespeare uses to complicate the theme of love and (heterosexual) desire, and plays up for comic effect.

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Orsino Character Timeline in Twelfth Night

The timeline below shows where the character Orsino appears in Twelfth Night. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, scene 1
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Duke Orsino lounges in his palace in Illyria, alternately praising and lamenting the nature of love. First,... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Valentine, another attendant, returns from Olivia's palace, where Orsino has sent him. He reports that Olivia is deep in mourning for her brother, who... (full context)
Act 1, scene 2
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
...who was born in Illyria, explains to Viola that Illyria is governed by a Duke Orsino, a bachelor who is in love with a noblewoman named Olivia. Olivia, herself the orphaned... (full context)
Act 1, scene 4
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
At Orsino's palace, Viola, now disguised as the page boy Cesario, chats with Valentine. Valentine tells Cesario... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Orsino enters and asks to speak with Cesario privately. Orsino then tells Cesario he has Orsino's... (full context)
Act 1, scene 5
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
...she demands to know: who wrote Cesario's "text" (1.5.208)? Cesario confesses that it was indeed Orsino. Exasperated, Olivia says that she has already heard all he has to say. Cesario asks... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
...without producing an heir to keep such beauty alive after her death. Cesario adds that Orsino loves Olivia so deeply that she should yield to him. Olivia asks Cesario to describe... (full context)
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
...gentleman by birth, although conditions have reduced him. Olivia replies that Cesario should return to Orsino, tell him that Olivia cannot love him and must not to send any further messengers—except,... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
...Olivia summons Malvolio and gives him a ring, which, she lies, Cesario left behind on Orsino's behalf. She commands Malvolio to chase down Cesario, return the ring, and instruct him to... (full context)
Act 2, scene 2
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
..."Cesario," and that by taking on her disguise she has created an impossible love triangle: Orsino loves Olivia, Olivia loves Viola/Cesario, and Viola loves Orsino. Because Orsino takes Viola for a... (full context)
Act 2, scene 4
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
The next day, Orsino lounges in his palace as usual, attended by Cesario, Curio, and other servants and musicians.... (full context)
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
Orsino tells Cesario that, if he is ever in love, he must remember and imitate Orsino's... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance 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... (full context)
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
Orsino instructs Cesario to go woo Olivia once again on his behalf. Cesario suggests that Orsino... (full context)
Act 3, scene 1
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Cesario arrives at Olivia's palace (following Orsino's instructions in 2.4). Outside he finds Feste, who clowns a bit and mocks both Olivia... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
When they are alone, Cesario says that he is Olivia's servant: he is Orsino's servant and Orsino belongs to Olivia. So, by extension, he does too. Olivia says she... (full context)
Act 3, scene 4
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
...she is so in love, she cannot help herself. Cesario reminds Olivia that his master, Orsino, is suffering just as she is. Olivia gives Cesario a locket containing her picture and... (full context)
Act 5, scene 1
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
...begging for Olivia's help. As Fabian tries to get Feste to let him read it, Orsino arrives with Cesario and several others. After exchanging some casual banter with Feste, Orsino sends... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
While Orsino waits, the officers barge in with Antonio. Cesario defends Antonio—noting that Antonio saved him from... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
...Cesario has been. Has he broken his marriage promises to her already? Cesario is confused. Orsino, who now thinks that Cesario has wooed Olivia in secret, grows enraged. He tells Olivia... (full context)
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
As Orsino is leaving, Sir Andrew enters, bleeding and calling for a surgeon. He accuses Cesario of... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
...in, apologizing to Olivia, begging her pardon for having hurt her kinsman. Everyone is astonished. Orsino exclaims that Sebastian and Cesario are identical: "one face, one voice, one habit, and two... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Sebastian turns to Olivia to explain: all that time, she wanted to marry a woman. Orsino reassures Olivia, telling her that the twins have noble blood. He then turns to Viola... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Waiting for them to return, Olivia asks Orsino to think of her as a sister and offers to host a wedding feast for... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Orsino says that when the Captain has given his account, he and Viola and Olivia and... (full context)