Why does Duke Orsino say "If music be the food of love, play on" in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night?

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Duke Orsino is suffering, and he is hoping that the music will end his suffering.

Duke Orsino is in love, but his love is unrequited. Olivia has vowed off men.  She has experienced some hardships because both her father and brother died and she wants to take a seven year...

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Duke Orsino is suffering, and he is hoping that the music will end his suffering.

Duke Orsino is in love, but his love is unrequited. Olivia has vowed off men.  She has experienced some hardships because both her father and brother died and she wants to take a seven year mourning period to recover from the loss.  This is a different kind of love.  Duke Orsino has convinced himself that he is in love with her, but she will have none of it.  This is why he tells the musician to play on, because music is the “food of love,” as they say, and if you eat too much, you will no longer have an appetite for it.  Basically, if you listen to enough music, you won’t be in love anymore.  I guess that’s his plan, metaphorically.

DUKE ORSINO

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall … (Act 1, Scene 1)

It doesn’t work.  Orsino gets sick of the music and tells the musicians to stop.  Shakespeare makes another joke with a play on the “hart,” which is a stag.  This sounds a lot like “heart,” doesn’t it?  This is especially true since Shakespeare’s audience would have been hearing and not seeing the word.

CURIO

Will you go hunt, my lord?

DUKE ORSINO

What, Curio?

CURIO

The hart. (Act 1, Scene 1)

Orsino picks up the play on words by mentioning Olivia.  He is hunting her heart, not a deer.  He wants Olivia to return his affections.  Listening to music did not make him love her any less.

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