Orsino loves love

From the opening lines in Act 1 spoken by Orsino, I got the idea that he is a fool who loves love, and yet finds it everywhere without regarding gender. He gets sucked in to how love makes him feel and simply hunts for it everywhere he goes. Orsino opens the play with the lines reading “If music be the food of love, play on| Give me excess of it that, surfeiting| The appetite may sicken and so die.” These opening lines predict much of his character and his behavior. He craves love, and presumably sex, constantly. So much so that he wants to die from it. Furthermore, the “excess” of love allows Orsino to continually look for, accept, and partake in love with anyone and everyone he wishes. Thus, his desire to love and be loved in return crosses gender boundaries.

Continually, as Viola tells Olivia of his love for her, Olivia asks “How does he love me| Viola: With adorations, fertile tears, with groans that thunder love, with sighs of fire.”  This declaration of love is something of passion that expresses merely the “fire” or burn for sexual desire. It is based purely on sex, but only on Orsino’s needs to be fulfilled by the beautiful Olivia. Similarly, the “fertile tears” depicts Orsino as sexually overindulgent and a cry baby if he does not get his way. While he uses Viola to get Olivia to fall in love with him, he is also falling in love with Cesario while Viola is falling in love with him and Olivia is falling in love with Cesario. The love triangle complicates things but also furthers the thought of love being indulgent, unbalanced, and uncontrollable.

He loves Olivia and wants her because of her beauty and sexual connotations. Yet he also begins to look at Cesario in a particular way that suggests he has some sort of feeling for him. He stares at him saying “Diana’s lip is not more smooth and rubious; thy small pipe is as the maiden\s organ, shrill and sound, and all is semblative a woman’s part.”  This suggests that Orsino “falls in love” through his physical attraction and desire to fornicate, not through a sense of love for someone’s personality. This scene of Orsino and Cesario’s interaction portrays him as sort of a horn dog, for lack of a better term. At this point he loves Olivia, but he wants Cesario to deliver a message to her showing how much he loves her, at the same time he’s looking at Cesario thinking how sexy he is and probably wanting to “get to know him” on a more intimate level. Sex and love are everywhere Orsino looks and it is not something that he can escape from. His eyes for both Olivia and Cesario suggest Orsino is not someone who particularly cares whether or not he is attracted to a man or woman. He is filled with a passion for sexual curiosity and allows himself to ignore obstacles that would impede his ability to indulge in his sexual fantasies, such as gender.


3 thoughts on “Orsino loves love

  1. Samantha Meyer

    I find your commentary on the love of Orsino very interesting because often his love is overlooked. After all, the main focuses of the play tend to be the love that Olivia has for Cesario/Viola and the love that Malvolio has for power (and thus Olivia). I especially find your commentary about Orsino’s love for Cesario/Viola very interesting because of its emphasis on sex. Your quote on the female-like parts that Orsino notices really got me thinking about just how much Orsino’s love for him/her really was sexual, whereas I had originally read it as being something mainly related to personality. On the same note, I found it absolutely astonishing how quickly Orsino was able to switch from loving Olivia fully to loving Viola fully. This really made me question just how true his love to Olivia was in the first place considering how much florid language he used to describe it and then forget about it. Great post!

  2. pamsutherland

    I hadn’t considered Orsino’s “love” for Olivia until I read your post. I assumed there was a back story of him knowing her better and wanting her before the death of her brother. You’re right, it does look more like he wants her just for the sake of having her (both emotionally and sexually). She is beautiful, well off and strong minded. The fact that he is falling in love with Cesario makes me think that what he feels for Olivia is not the love he portrays but more of a conquest, he wants her because she doesn’t want him. The genuine love is what he finds in Cesario. I can see him shaking his head staring at Cesario and mumbling “if only you were a woman!” Then the joy and relief he must have felt when he found out the truth.

  3. A. Walker

    I agree somewhat with your post in the aspects of Orsino simply being a “horn dog” as you said or simply in love with the idea of love, but I don’t agree that he was sexual curious. He was in lust/love with Olivia because she was obviously an attractive woman whom he thought was worthy of being with him. However when it came to Cesario/Viola I feel he fell in love with the female characteristics and qualities Cesario possessed. I think he had to remind himself that though the characteristics of Cesario are female, he is my male servant. Therefore any “unnatural” feelings were discarded; until he found out he was a she.


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