William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night depicts the trials and faults of several characters’ loves. There are many downfalls and unrequited loves, and the story basically ends up in a confusing love triangle. He especially shows the many quirks of Orsino in his quest for winning the true love of Olivia. In this play, the reader can easily understand the many mistakes that Orsino makes in love.
For a majority of the play, Orsino is very oblivious to the fact that Cesario is actually a woman. Viola, disguised as Cesario, makes many comments to him that could possibly lead him to finding out her secret. For example, when Orsino asks what kind of woman Cesario loves, she replies “Of your complexion” (2.4.27). Orsino does not catch this, but describes that one should love a woman younger than himself. “For women are roses, whose fair flower Being once displayed, doth fall that very hour” (2.4.40-41). This is most likely a positive point for Viola, being that she is clearly younger than Orsino, and once the disguises are taken away, he will realize that he can love her. Orsino
actually describes a platonic love between himself and Cesario. This is a hint to the reader that the unveiling of Viola could, in fact, lead to a true love. For instance, Orsino tells Cesario “If ever thou shalt love; in the sweet pangs of it remember me” (2.4.13-14). This is almost ironic, and foreshadows the follies yet to come including the growing attraction Viola has for Orsino.
Another point that Orsino does not notice is that Olivia is in love with Cesario. She falls in love with
Cesario almost immediately, which is apparent when they are in the garden and she says “O, by your leave, I pray you. I bade you never speak again of him (3.1.84-85).” If Orsino would have noticed this, he could have ended his hope to marry Olivia and then the identity of Cesario could have been revealed much sooner. It seems that Orsino is in denial of Olivia’s distaste for him, so he tends to continue about his courting without much thought. He trusts Cesario as his servant and friend, and believes that if anything suspicious is happening with Olivia, he would surely tell him.
Orsino unknowingly helps the love Olivia has for Cesario build by sending him to her home with love songs and poetic words that he is courting her with. Each time Cesario has to relay these pure feelings of love that are
meant to be from Orsino, Olivia ends up falling deeper in love with Cesario. Viola realizes what is happening but is not able to completely withdraw from her master’s orders. Olivia completely ignores the forthcomings of Orsino, yet he still does not fully put that into perspective. She is clearly in love with whom she thinks is Cesario. This is present when Orsino, during the final act, sees her and attempts to tell Olivia that he is in love with her. “Gracious Olivia-”(5.1.92) he swoons. But she has no time for him and goes on to regain the attention of Cesario because he had failed to answer a question earlier. “What do you say, Cesario?- Good my lord-”(5.1.93). Orsino is very oblivious in this play, and this hurts him in an emotional way significantly.
The hints that Orsino does not notice almost make him seem like the fool in this play. The reader or audience sees him as an oblivious man in love with someone who clearly does not have any interest in him. The other characters involved in this mayhem also seem to have faults, but Orsino makes the most significant mistakes of anyone. It is apparent that Orsino tried to win the love of Olivia, but it is even more obvious that he did not try hard enough, for she ends up falling in love with his servant who isn’t