Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night is an interesting fast paced play that involves love and disguise. I would like to focus in on Viola as a character and her love interest in Orsino. Viola disguises herself as Cesario and in doing so she ends up working for Orsino. Orsino at the beginning of the play is hopelessly in love with Olivia. Orsino ends up discussing his love for Olivia with the disguised Viola saying:
ORSINO: There is no woman’s sides/ Can bide the beating of so strong a passion/ As love doth give my heart; no woman’s heart/ So big, to hold so much. They lack retention./ Alas, their love may be called appetite/ No motion of the liver, but the palate/ That suffer surfeit, cloyment, and revolt. But mine is all as hungry as the sea/ And can digest as much. Make no compare/ Between that love a woman can bear me/ And that I owe Olivia. (II.iv.92-102)
In this dialogue, Orsino expresses how he believes that women cannot love as strongly as men can and that their love is merely superficial. It is also clear in this passage how self-centered he is when it comes to him, and his emotions, which seems to be all he actually takes into consideration. Ironically, Orsino says that men’s love is unchangeable in comparison to women’s, but by the end of the play he immediately switches from loving Olivia to Viola. Also, the interaction that spurred this conversation on was when Viola casually admits how she is in love with Orsino without making it seem as though she was referring to herself. This leads me to wonder why Viola falls in love with Orsino, to begin with. Viola is an intelligent and compelling female character. Which is why I find it odd that she would love Orsino. For her to be a firsthand witness to him saying that women are not capable of love like men are, and how he puts on a pity act for how his feelings are so much stronger, and probably more important, than anything Olivia can be experiencing. How on earth could Viola find a man who is so self-centered and frankly, out of touch when it comes to love worthy of her own love. Now by having her fall in love Orsino it does push the outrageous theme of the play of love triangles and people falling in and out of love with different people. However, I personally find it strange that she would hold affection for him when she was witness to his insulting views when it comes to women, which I find would, and should have been unappealing. Especially in Viola’s case because as a woman she did hold a pure, unchangeable love throughout the play for Orsino. Which also makes me wonder how crushed she felt to hear the man she loved to say that women are not capable of a passionate, authentic love.


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