If music be the food of love, Twelfth Night

If music be the food of love, play on. 1 Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, 2 The appetite may sicken and so die. 3 That strain again! It

Quote Analysis

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Act 1 Scene 1 line 1-3

This quote opens one of the most famous plays of William Shakespeare - “Twelfth Night” - in Act 1 Scene 1 and it pretty much defines one of the major characters of the play, Duke Orsino. The Duke of Illyria is the most powerful man in the country, but here we see him completely lovesick and enjoying it. Orsino is desperately in love with Lady Olivia, who decided to stay in mourning forever after the death of her brother. Deliberately choosing an impossible target, Duke enjoys the very feeling of being in love, dreaming, hoping and suffering beautifully.

This quote shows not only his love to music. We also see that Duke doesn’t want to be cured of his lovesickness. Instead, he deliberately exaggerates it by ordering to play the proper music to keep his mood. It is more of a narcissistic loving himself being in love than a true love to Olivia. This makes Orsino a bit shallow - something that only true love that grew from friendship can change.

On the more basic level this quote states that Orsino loves music. It is so, indeed. Music is justified in the play because Duke Orsino orders to play something very often. This his trait is very useful in comedy, where, in the times of Shakespeare, musical breaks were almost a must. So, the author brilliantly used the character both for moving the plot and - in meta sense - to provide music to the audience.