William Shakespeare 's Twelfth Night

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Shakespeare 's Twelfth Night is a critical Elizabethan-era work that explores attraction and sexuality within the relationship between Viola (as Cesario) and Duke Orsino. Her role is one of steadfast love towards Orsino; she willingly courts Olivia on his behalf as Cesario, burying her feelings for him because she cares that he is happy. There is a rigid dichotomy between Viola and Orsino’s passion; where Viola is steady, Orsino is inconsistent. Feste states directly to Orsino that his “mind is a very opal” (2.4.71) which implies he is constantly changing what he wants and is more in love with the idea of love rather than Olivia. Duke Orsino’s evolution from a typical Petrarchan lover to passionate love, through trials of gender confusion…show more content…
Orsino’s selfishness is shown through his identification of her deep love for her brother through her mourning and how he can claim “her sweet perfections with one self king” (1.1.39). Nothing is ever specifically noted about Olivia that he is passionate about other than her capacity for love, which reveals Orsino’s true intentions of loving love.
In the context of other works of the era, the Orsino found in the opening acts is a common character of the time. He woefully mopes around pining for love, without cause or action, because he feels the need to be loved. This side of Orsino sets up the development of his relationship with Viola and provides a comparison for the other couples in the play. Shakespeare used this character type as both a narrative device and a nod that the “common” plays and poems of his day missed the mark on what the true concept of love is.
Other than his unwillingness to follow through on his passions, Orsino is noble “in nature as in name” (1.2.25) which would be typically make a very attractive suitor for Olivia. These characteristics are what makes Viola fall in love at first sight when she joins his court under her alias. She is able to integrate herself immediately in the Duke’s court due to her wit and charm, much like how she gained the trust of the captain prior to her departure to Illyria. Orsino is incredibly quick to trust Cesario having “unclasp 'd to [him] the book even of [his] secret soul” (1.4.11) and sends him on
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