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      • Act I Summary: Scene 1: Count Orsino of Illyria is introduced; he laments that he is lovesick, and wishes that "if music be the food of love," he could kill his unrequited love through an overdose of music.
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  2. Twelfth Night Summary: Act I, scene i If music be the food of love, play on, . . . O spirit of love, how quick and fresh are thou. . . . See Important Quotes Explained In the land of Illyria, Duke Orsino enters, attended by his lords. Orsino is hopelessly in love with the beautiful Lady Olivia and pines away for her.

    • Synopsis
    • Setting
    • Content
    • Music
    • Cultural references
    • Analysis
    • Usage
    • Influences
    • Themes
    • Style

    Count Orsino of Illyria is introduced; he laments that he is lovesick, and wishes that \\"if music be the food of love,\\" he could kill his unrequited love through an overdose of music. His servant, Curio, asks Orsino if he will go and hunt; Orsino answers with another lovelorn reply, about how his love for the Lady Olivia has been tearing him apart...

    The play's action occurs in the mythical land of Illyria, the name taken from an ancient area on the Adriatic coast, opposite Italy. In Roman times, Illyria was the home of a great number of pirates who would pillage Roman ships; but, in Shakespeare's time, Illyria was a group of city-states under the control of Venice. The Illyria of the play, as ...

    Orsino opens the play with a speech, beginning, \\"if music be the food of love, play on\\"; the \\"if,\\" and the particular diction of the line, makes the statement sound like an allusion to a familiar proverb, though no corresponding proverb is known (I.i.1). The first part of his speech is a metaphorical relation of music and love; Orsino relates m...

    The music that Orsino is listening to pleases him at first; he makes a simile, comparing the music to the \\"sweet sound\\" (denoting a breeze) that picks up the smell of flowers (I.i.5). Orsino then contrasts love, which steals away the value of things, and the sea, which transforms things. He continues his metaphorical relation of love with appetit...

    Orsino repeatedly leads his conversation back to the topic of love; when his attendant, Curio, asks him if he will go hunt a hart, Orsino answers by speaking of his heart, quite a clever pun. But then, he relates the topic of hunting to his lovelorn condition; he alludes to Ovid's account of Actaeon, who was punished for seeing the goddess Diana na...

    The language that Orsino uses in this first scene may be full of artifice; but it also indicates a capacity for strong feeling and great vitality. Orsino may be pining for love, but his feelings are very urgent; the image of him being torn apart by hounds expresses the great impact his feelings have on him, and his perseverance in wooing Olivia mea...

    Olivia's reply to Orsino's entreaty contains the only known usage of the word \\"cloistress,\\" according to the Oxford English dictionary (l. 27). The word can be roughly translated as equivalent to \\"nun,\\" but is more mannered because of its formal tone and its rarity. In her reply is also the comparison of tears to brine; and as brine is used to ...

    Orsino recalls the moment when he fell in love with Olivia by saying that he thought she \\"purged the air of pestilence,\\" making an allusion to the Elizabethan belief that illnesses were caused by bad air (l. 19). He also recalls Elizabethan folk beliefs when he speaks of Olivia's \\"liver, brain, and heart,\\" which were thought to be the seats of ...

    Viola and Olivia's parallel situation, of mourning a recently deceased brother, is significant because it creates a bond of sympathy, at least from Viola's point of view. Viola expresses her wish to serve Olivia after hearing of Olivia's loss; and Viola's sympathy colors her later interactions with Olivia, with Viola being especially sensitive and ...

    The language of Scene 5 is less laden with literary elements than the language of the previous scenes, because of the temperaments of Olivia and the others involved, and also because of Olivia's focus on getting the plain truth out of people. Olivia has the ability to quickly match a witty statement with an equally witty answer; she plays off of Fe...

    • The Duke and His Lover
    • The Shipwreck and The Deception
    • in Olivia's House
    • Analysis

    In Act I, we learn of Duke Orsino's great love for the beautiful but uninterested Olivia. She's in mourning for her dead brother and won't consider romance at this time. In fact, she has vowed to stay in mourning for seven years. Orsino is devastated. He refuses to hunt or do much of anything besides listen to music. So Orsino mopes around the hous...

    Meanwhile, near the coast, Violaponders her fate. She's just survived a shipwreck that killed most people on board, and she assumes her twin brother, Sebastian, has died. The captain cautions her about writing him off just yet; he says he saw Sebastian lash himself to the mast, so there is a possibility he survived. Viola shrugs, not wanting to get...

    We are introduced to Sir Toby, Olivia's drunken uncle, who lives with Olivia. He has his friend, the equally drunken Sir Andrew, with him. Sir Toby puts forward Sir Andrew, who hopes to win Olivia's heart. She shuts him down. Viola, who has disguised herself and is going by the name Cesario, obtains a place in Orsino's household and quickly becomes...

    Act I sets up the big mix-up that will occur later in the play. Her disguise, her missing brother, the love triangle…all are important pieces of the comedy that Shakespeare in pulling together. Like all of the Bard's plays, this one deals with love and loss.

  3. Twelfth Night is one of the plays referred to as Shakespeare’s “transvestite comedies,” and Viola’s gender deception leads to all kinds of romantic complications. The opening lines of Twelfth Night, in which a moping Orsino, attended by his servants and musicians, says, “If music be the food of love, play on,” establish how love has conquered Orsino (I.i. 1). His speech on this subject is rather complicated, as he employs a metaphor to try to establish some control over love.

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