Comment on the use of language in Twelfth Night.

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the keys to being able to analyse language successfully is to be able to not only spot features of language such as similes and metaphors, but also to be able to comment on what they particularly add to the text itself. Examining the opening scene of this excellent comedy reveals a number of uses of language that can be commented upon. Consider the opening lines of Orsino's speech:

If music be the food of love, play on,

Give me excess of it that, surfeiting,

The appetite may sicken and so die.

In these first three lines, Orsino compares music to the "food of love," using imagery to describe how he wants to have "excess" of this "food" in order to end his "appetite." This metaphor therefore is used to tell the audience a lot about Orsino, as it presents him as rather a pathetic figure, who is very "in love," so much so that he seems to savour this state more than the actual object of his affection, which is something that is proven later on in the play. It is always necessary to think about what particular aspects of language are doing: what is their job? How does Shakespeare use them? The ability to answer these questions indicates the ability to analyse the use of language.

ian8777 | Student

In particular the first scene. I can see simile and metaphor and alliteration, I just can't say why it is being used! Help!

ian8777 | Student

Thanks very much for answering my question. Much appreciated.