Orsino and Olivia
Orsino and Olivia are worth discussing together, because they have similar personalities. Both claim to be buffeted by strong emotions, but both ultimately seem to be self-indulgent individuals who enjoy melodrama and self-involvement more than anything. When we first meet them, Orsino is pining away for love of Olivia, while Olivia pines away for her dead brother. They show no interest in relating to the outside world, preferring to lock themselves up with their sorrows and mope around their homes.
Viola’s arrival begins to break both characters out of their self-involved shells, but neither undergoes a clear-cut change. Orsino relates to Viola in a way that he never has to Olivia, diminishing his self-involvement and making him more likable. Yet he persists in his belief that he is in love with Olivia until the final scene, in spite of the fact that he never once speaks to her during the course of the play. Olivia, meanwhile, sets aside her grief when Viola (disguised as Cesario) comes to see…show more content… Love is generally represented as something sudden and irresistible, something that attacks its victim from the outside in a fashion similar to a disease. Like a disease, love is extremely difficult to get rid of or cure. People seem to suffer painfully from it—or at least they claim to suffer. Orsino describes it as an "appetite" that must be satisfied (I.i.1–3); Olivia calls love a "plague" (I.v.265); Viola sighs that "[m]y state is desperate for my master’s love" (II.ii.35). Because love makes those who suffer from it desperate, it has the potential to result in violence, as in Act V, scene i, when Orsino, thinking that Cesario is Olivia’s lover, threatens to kill him. At this point, the play is only a few delicate steps away from turning into a tragedy—a testament to how violent and terrible the power of love can