If music be the food of love, play on
If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
Duke Orsino of Illyria, presiding over the merry, mixed-up world
of Twelfth Night, opens the play with these festive sentiments,
soured though they be by the affected airs of the melancholic
lover. He has convinced himself that he's insanely in love with a
wealthy and resistant lady, who is in mourning for her brother and
only annoyed by Orsino's inappropriate attentions. The duke's idea
of a cure for his disease is to stuff himself sick with his own
Orsino's brand of self-indulgent pouting comes in for much
ribbing here and elsewhere in Shakespeare, most vividly in As You
Like It and Much Ado about Nothing. For melancholic poseurs like
Orsino, who are actually expected to make spectacles of themselves,
affecting gestures are more important than sincere emotions.