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  1. Love and Illness. In perhaps the most famous metaphor of the play, Orsino's opening words are, "If music be the food of love, play on. / Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, / The appetite may sicken and so die" (1.1). In this metaphor, Orsino equates music with something that "feeds" love.

  2. Explanation and Analysis—Chambers/Chapters: Characters in Twelfth Night frequently use metaphorical language to talk about love and desire. One especially evocative metaphor that appears more than once throughout the play likens the human heart to a book and the act of loving to the act of reading.

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  4. When asked if he will go on a hunt for a “hart” (a male deer), Orsino puns on the word “hart” by giving it a double meaning in order to employ a metaphor for his love of Olivia: he is both the hunter and the hunted; he is the hart pursued by his desire for Olivia.

  5. Twelfth Night is sometimes called a "transvestite comedy" for the obvious reason that its central character is a young woman, Viola, who disguises herself as a pageboy, Cesario. In Shakespeare's time, Viola's part, like all the parts in Twelfth Night, would have been played by a man, because women were not allowed to act. So, originally ...

  6. The tale of a young woman who disguises herself as a man and becomes entangled in the courtship of two local aristocrats upends conventions of romance and gender roles. First staged in 1602, Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s most performed plays. Read a character analysis of Viola, the plot summary, and important quotes. Summary

  7. Twelfth Night: Examining the Text. Shakespeare uses figurative language as he speaks with metaphors, similes, and personification. Recognizing when his characters are speaking figuratively helps in understanding the play. A metaphor is the application of a word or phrase to somebody or something that is not meant literally but to make a comparison.