How is Duke Orsino's version of love strange in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One reason why Duke Orsino's version of love is strange is because it is not really genuine love, but rather more of an obsession. In fact, he is really more in love with the idea of the self-satisfaction he can gain from love rather than in love with Olivia, making his love a self-love rather than a genuine love for Olivia. We can see both the obsessiveness and true selfish nature of his love in the very opening scene. For one thing, all of his speeches in this scene reflect more on himself and the pain he is experiencing through love rather than on Olivia. One speech in particular that reflects more on himself rather than on Olivia is a speech in which he likens his own heart to a deer, or hart, that is being mercilessly hunted by his desires for Olivia, and he also likens his desires for Olivia to fierce, cruel hunting dogs, as we see in his lines:

O, when mine eyes did see Olivia first,
Methought she purg'd the air of pestilence!
That instant was I turn'd into a hart;
And my desires, like fell and cruel hounds,
E'er since pursue me. (I.i.20-24)

While on the surface these lines appear to be a praise of Olivia and a declaration of his love for her, the truth is that her name only shows up once. Instead, this passage is really full of the words "I," "me," and "my," which appear five times collectively. The fact that this passage is so heavily focused on himself shows us that his love for Olivia is not genuine love and really more of a love for self-satisfaction. He is only interested in how experiencing love can benefit him, such as sexual satisfaction. In addition, the passage shows us that he is absolutely obsessed with the pain his feelings are causing him, rather than accepting her rejection and allowing himself to move on, showing us again that he is not obsessed with Olivia so much as he is obsessed with the idea of being in love with Olivia.

Hence we see that Orsino's love is strange because, not only is it an obsession rather than genuine love, it's an obsession over self-gratification, showing us just how much his love for Olivia isn't real love at all.

msfuryal | Student

Shakespeare was a great writer. Though little is known about his personal life, each of his literary work is appreciated and adored.

Twelfth night is a romantic comedy written in a festive mood. The common mtif in Twelfth night is self deception and folly. Some of the characters voluntarily delude themselves , others are betrayed by their in born folly.

Orsino is also blinded by his image as an ardent but despairing lover that he is maimed by his obssession.

we see him first as he indulgesthis obssession with his famous speech on music as food of love, however lovely this speech may seem to the ear , reveals the speaker as a narcissistic  fool.

Orsino tells Viola--





in reality he loves the idea of being in love. his love is an illusion, he is actually in love with himself.

he is a victim of deception caused   by himself.even though he is unmolested in his folly, he deserves the same punishment as molvolio.

the proper pairing off of lovers signifies release from labyrinthine misconception. But the ease with which Orsino shifts his 'fancy' from Olivia to Viola is evidence of his fake obssession.

infact Orsino was a sentimentalist who preferred the comfort of his own illusions to the dangers of candid self- appraisal.

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Twelfth Night

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