The Curse Known as Love

Shakespeare’s play, Twelfth Night, opens with Orsino stating, “If music be the food of love, play on / Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, / The appetite may sicken and so die.” (I.i.1-3). Right out of the gates, an obsession with love is expressed. Orsino craves love, and desperately needs to quench his thirst. Orsino has his eyes on Olivia and states, “O, when mine eyes did see Olivia First, / Methought she purged the air of pestilence / That instant was I turned into a hart, / and my desires, like fell and cruel hounds / E’er since pursued me.” (I.i.20-24). Orsino is considered cursed by love at this point of the play. This is a very relatable phenomenon, as when someone falls in love with another person, all they care about is making the other person love them back. This desire, as described by Orsino as “cruel hounds”, is very powerful, and has the power to destroy whomever is cursed.

Orsino’s desire for Olivia does not end here, as moving into deeper into his opening lines of the play he states, “How will she love when the rich golden shaft / Hath killed the flock of all affections else / That live in her.” (I.i.37-38). This is a very selfish view of love, as Orsino seems to not care about Olivia, all he wants from her is her love. Like a vampire, he wants to suck the life out of her, to fuel his own self needs. Orsino is simply cursed with wanting to understand the concept of love, rather than truly experiencing it. No man would describe their love in such a parasitic way as he does here, and this shows he is not looking for a mutual relationship. Malvolio seems to be cursed with the same sense of love when he is describing how he wants to marry Olivia stating, “Calling my officers about me, in my / branched velvet gown, having come from a daybed, / where I have left Olivia sleeping.” (II.vi.46-48). Malvolio’s desires for Olivia are clearly for his own gain here. He has somehow dreamed up a grand fantasy world, within his imagination, where he can woo Olivia in this manner. This is a great example of the faults humans can experience when we decide to live false realities within our minds, that are most likely unattainable.

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