What charactersitics of Olivia can be seen in Act 1 , Scene 1 of Shakespeare'sTwelfth Night?

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theyellowbookworm eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Act I, Scene I of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, or What You Will reveals Duke Orsino’s deep love and infatuation with the Countess Olivia. The scene opens with Duke Orsino reflecting on his love for Olivia: “If music be the food of love, play on, / Give me excess of it that, surfeiting, / The appetite may sicken and so die” (ll. 1-3). In these lines, Shakespeare uses the physical metaphor of consumption, or eating, to demonstrate the strength of love’s bonds. Orsino calls for his musicians to overwhelm him with music in the hope that he might forget Olivia. However, Duke Orsino’s lovesickness places him in stage of stasis and renders him immobile; the power of love is so strong that Orsino is incapable of fulfilling any other duties. Readers of Twelfth Night learn that while the Count appears to be deeply in love with the Countess Olivia, Orsino and Olivia are not in a relationship. Instead, the Countess refuses to admit Orsino’s men and says that she is in deep morning for “A brother’s dead love” (ll.30). In other words, Olivia mourns her deceased brother and says that no one will see her face for seven years (ll.25). Orsino, however, is not swayed by Olivia’s refusal of his love. Instead, he applauds her love for her brother and continues to dream of love: “Love-thoughts lie rich when canopied with bowers” (ll. 40). Thus, readers learn from Act I Scene I of Twelfth Night that Olivia is in mourning for her recently deceased brother, she plans to say in mourning for the next 7 years, and she refuses Orsino’s vows of devotion.

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Twelfth Night

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