Comparing and contrasting characters in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

Essay by GhouLmicrOHigh School, 10th gradeA-, May 2004

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Twelfth Night Essay

Duke Orsino and Olivia, both bound by strong emotions and acts of self-indulgence, have many traits, and emotions shared between each other. Orsino and Olivia are worth discussing together, because they have similar personalities, traits, and attributes. Both seem to be buffeted by strong emotions, but both ultimately seem to be self-indulgent individuals who enjoy melodrama and self-involvement more than anything. When we first meet them, Orsino is pining away for love of Olivia, while Olivia pines away for her dead brother. They show no interest in relating to the outside world, preferring to lock themselves up with their sorrows and complain around their homes.

Viola's arrival begins to break both characters out of their self-involved shells, but neither undergoes a constant change. Orsino reacts with Viola in a way that he never has acted to Olivia, thinning his self-involvement and making him more likable.

Yet he persists in his belief that he is in love with Olivia until the final scene, in spite of the fact that he never once speaks to her during the course of the play. Olivia, meanwhile, sets aside her grief when Cesario (Viola) comes to see her. But Olivia takes up her own desires of loveing, in which she pines away, with a self-indulgence that mirrors Orsino's--for a man who is really a woman.

In immediate expression of Orsino's personality, Shakespeare begins the Twelfth Night with Orsino pining his love for Olivia. He does so by introducing Orsino saying;

If music be the food of love, play on

Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting

The appetite may sicken, and so die.(Act I,1,1-3)

It is clearly implied that Orsino is a man of many emotions but us as the readers aren't so sure about his other...