Twelfth Night Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Why does Olivia fall in love with Viola and not Orsino? Using Act 1 Scene 1 and Act 1 Scene 5.

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It is a common theme in Shakespeare's comedies to find a character falling in love with another, not knowing the attraction is actually a homosexual one. This would have been particularly amusing to the contemporary audience because, of course, all the characters were played by men, adding an increased level to the gender-bending and confusion.

In Twelfth Night, the character of Orsino is a farcical one, speaking words the audience would have recognized as typical of the unoriginal courtly love sonnets of the time. Orsino craves love but is not constant, stating that his feelings of love fall "into abatement and low price / Even in a minute." His declaration that Olivia seems able to "purge the air of pestilence" is romantic hyperbole. Evidently, he does not know her as a human being but only thinks of her as a romantic goal to be attained.

By contrast, Viola , when she enters as a messenger in act 1, scene 5, parries verbally with Olivia and attracts her attention from the beginning—Olivia...

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