The scene opens with Duke Orsino, hopelessly in love with the beautiful Lady Olivia. He refuses to do anything and commands his servants to entertain him while he pines away for her. His servant Valentine reminds him that Olivia does not return Orsino’s affections and she refuses to hear the messages he sends her. From Valentine, we discover that Olivia is mourning her dead brother. She wears a dark veil and swears that no one will see her face nor will she marry for at least seven years. Her vow to stay chaste entices Orsino more. He sulks and pouts, desiring only to lie about while dreaming of his love.
Close Reading Analysis:
- Discussion Points:
Characterization of Orsino:
(Line 1)If music be the food of love, play on, / Give me excess of it
How does this introduce the plot conflict and Orsino’s mood?
(Lines 14-15)So full of shapes is fancy / That it alone is high fantastical
This introduces that romantic love and notion so often is a product of the lover’s imagination. Fantasy or what is “fantastical or capricious” is a major theme of the play.
We’ve known Orsino for about three minutes now; what can we tell about him already?
Characterization of Olivia:
Through Valentine, we learn Olivia’s plight and chosen mourning method.
How does Olivia’s vow of chastity conflict with what we’ve already discussed about the focus of Aristotelean comedy? (If the focus of comedy is love, marriage, and continuation of community, a young, beautiful, fertile woman like Olivia should be falling in love and having babies, not wasting her most (re)productive years!)
Ideas of Marriage and Levels of Love
How is this theme reinforced by the idea that Orsino’s romantic love for Olivia who does not love him in return is capricious?
Vocabulary and Literary Devices
Pun: (Lines 16-18) used as a comic jest on “hunting the hart” (hunting the deer dualed with searching for love)—Orsino is an animal; Olivia is a goddess—again, an implausible match; ergo, no babies!
Synecdoche:“liver, brain, and heart”
(Line 38) Orsino shows that he wants to fulfill Olivia’s “sexual desire, thought, and feeling.”
Rhyme: used at the end of a scene to signal its close
1.Within the language of the play, how does Shakespeare immediately introduce the audience to Orsino’s identity and role through his dialogue and actions?
1.VIDEO Watch the opening scene (Lines 1-24)from Twelfth Night Act 1 Sc 1 QuickTime Video.
Ask the students to select words from these lines that show Orsino is “in love.”
Discuss non-verbal messaging. Ask the students what mannerisms or gestures the actor purposefully uses to create a “love sick” Orsino.
1.What were the traditional mourning practices during the Elizabethan Era?How did men gain the affection of women they wanted to court and marry during the Elizabethan Era?