Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night: Character Analysis

Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night: Character Analysis
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Patricia Vineski
In this lesson, you will learn who Duke Orsino is, and how his characteristics shape his role in Shakespeare's play ''Twelfth Night''. Take a look at the character analysis and then test your knowledge with a quiz.

Character Analysis of Duke Orsino: Lovesick

Orsino is the powerful Duke of Illyria and a bachelor in Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night. When we first see the duke, he is in the absurdly romantic pose which characterizes him throughout the play. He has seen Olivia, and the very sight of her has fascinated him to such an extent that his romantic imagination convinces him that he will die if she does not agree to be his wife.

After seeing Olivia, Orsino demands music to calm his lovesick soul. But, almost as soon as it has begun, he demands that it be stopped because it is not as sweet as it once was. His entire opening speech is filled with a romantic, melancholy indulgence in which he is pining away for love of Olivia.

Character Analysis of Duke Orsino: Unseeing

The Duke persists in his pursuit of Olivia, using Cesario, his page, despite Olivia's continuing rejection of him. The Duke, however, is not so much in love with Olivia as he is in love with love. He is so absorbed in his own romantic fantasies that he does not realize that Cesario is, in fact, Viola, who cannot profess her own unrequited love for him.

Orsino even boasts of his self-indulgent and erratic behavior, which he associates with love, to Cesario/Viola as he/she tries to bring him to his senses. He is utterly self- absorbed and blind to Olivia's constant rejection, Viola's unprofessed love, even to Feste, clown and musician extraordinaire, who openly mocks him with a love song of death. He does not, or cannot, recognize that things are not as he wishes them to be.

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