Twelfth Night – Orsino
In William Shakespeare’s play, Twelfth Night, Orsino, is a dramatic, moody, love fool that pines away for the stunning Lady Olivia (who wants nothing to do with him) for most of the play but ends up with the beautiful cross-dressing Viola. Orsino is a wealthy bachelor that has the role of power as the Duke of Illyria. He seems lazy and doesn’t want to do anything for himself, which, puts emphasis on his class in society.
We get our first look at the Duke in the opening scene and its pretty telling, Shakespeare writes:
If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken and so die.
That strain again;it had a dying fall;
O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odor.Enough; no more;
‘Tis not so sweet now as it was before. (2)
Orsino commands his musicians to play because the music feeds his desire for love, then interrupts and demands that they stop, saying, Enough; no more / ‘Tis not so sweet as it was before (2). This quote tells us that Orsino is dramatic in his words, powerful, self-absorbed, and a bit moody.
Orsino says he’s in love with Olivia but there’s evidence that he is really not. When he shares his thoughts on when he first saw Olivia, Shakespeare writes, That instant was I turned into a hart; / And my desires, like fell and cruel hounds, / E’er since pursue me (2-3). Orsino said he was turned into a hart (a deer) and he was pursued or hunted by his desires, which were like the hounds. Orsino doesn’t imagine Olivia in this pursuit as much as he fixates on the pursuit of himself in the fantasy. Notably, there are a lot of personal pronouns spoken, me, my, and I when the Duke speaks. The Duke is more about himself than Olivia.
In movie, She’s the Man, Duke Orsino doesn’t even appear in the movie until is well under way. The movie is more Viola/Sebastian driven and Duke has very little lines compared to its Shakespeare counterpart. Duke doesn’t come across as dramatic and he is still the love fool who pines away for Olivia. He really puts the fool in love fool because Duke gets tongue-tied, he’s bumbling and can’t speak more than a couple words when Olivia is in the vicinity.
Viola Hastings is a girl who plays soccer for the Cornwall College team until her team gets cut. Her twin brother, Sebastian, is enrolled at Illyria but skips out when his band gets a gig in London. Viola then decides that she’s going to prove that girls are just as good as boys and decides to join the team at Illyria, as her brother Sebastian so she can beat the Cornwall team.
Our first look at Duke in the movie, is when Sebastian/Viola makes her way to the campus of Illyria. Duke is in his dorm room along with his two buddies. They don’t take very well to Sebastian and as for first impressions go, Sebastian doesn’t make that great of one. Duke is the soccer team’s striker and acts as though he is better than Sebastian. Sebastian asks Duke when the soccer tryouts are, and Duke responds, Noon, you play? And gives an incredulous look toward Sebastian. Duke and his buddies make fun of Sebastian.
Duke says he is in love with Olivia in this movie, but is he? Here too, shows evidence that he truly may not be. You must delve a little further into the movie. Duke meets Viola at the school carnival when he buys tickets for the kissing booth, that Olivia is working at. Viola relieves Olivia from her shift right before it would be Duke’s turn for the kissing. Olivia leaves much to Duke’s dismay but is attracted to Viola and becomes a bumbling mess. Later, Duke and Sebastian are at the gym working out, Duke tells Sebastian that he wants to ask Viola out to dinner but when Olivia decides to try to make Sebastian jealous by asking Duke to dinner, Duke once again bumbling and takes Olivia up on her offer.
Olivia: So do you have plans tonight?
Duke: I’m free…
Duke to Sebastian: I’m going out with Oliviaaaa
Sabastian: I thought you liked Viola?
Duke: Dude, c’mon what would you do?
If Duke truly was in love with Olivia, why did he enjoy kissing Viola so much? The gym scene really shows how fickle Duke is, going from wanting to ask Viola out for dinner to Olivia asking him out for dinner and he so quickly forgets Viola.
In the She’s the Man, Duke seems to be less self-absorbed but more sensitive. There are less me’s, I’s, and mine’s. Duke is also there for a little comedic relief. The movie is also very Viola/Sebastian centric. We follow their perspective the entire time and there’s very little supporting character story or intervention.
In, Twelfth Night, its central story is the Viola/Sebastian, Orsino, Olivia love triangle, we see more perspectives in the changing of the scenes. The cast of supporting characters have their own side stories going on that are just as entertaining as the main story. It makes the play seem so much larger.
In conclusion, Shakespeare’s comedy, Twelfth Night and the light-hearted teen movie She’s the Man, have many lessons to be taken away. Be yourself and love is sometimes tragedy.
Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night Or What You Will. McAllister Editions, 2015.
She’s the Man. Directed by Andy Fickman, written by Ewan Leslie, Karen McCullah Lutz, and Kirsten Smith, performances by Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum, DreamWorks, 2006.
Twelfth Night, or What You Will
Shmoop Editorial Team – https://www.shmoop.com/study-guides/literature/twelfth-night
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