Orsino (Twelfth Night)

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Walter Howell Deverell, Twelfth Night.jpg
1850 painting showing Viola as Cesario looking longingly at Duke Orsino.[1]
Creator William Shakespeare
Play The Twelfth Night
Source Twelfth Night
Role Major character

Duke Orsino is a fictional character from William Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night, believed to have been written around 1600 or 1601.


Orsino is Duke of Illyria. A powerful nobleman. Orsino is a bachelor, lovesick for the beautiful Lady Olivia, but finds himself becoming more and more fond of his handsome new page boy, Cesario, who is actually Viola, the daughter of a nobleman who knew Duke Orsino. Viola falls in love with Orsino, despite continuing to plead his case to Olivia. But then Olivia, under the impression that Viola was Cesario, falls in love with her. Later when Viola's twin brother Sebastian comes to Illyria, he is mistaken as Cesario by Olivia and is asked to marry her, to which he agrees. At the end of the play, when the confusion over the identities of Viola and her twin Sebastian is resolved, and Orsino comes to know Viola's true identity, he agrees to take Viola as his wife

Orsino, as we see in the play, is a very passionate man. Being in love with the idea of love, he sees Olivia and immediately thinks up a fantasy, convincing himself any passion inside him is only for her. But when his pageboy, "Cesario" begins to work with him he becomes fond of the boy, which is one reason to explain why he is easily able to switch his love from Olivia to Viola (Cesario) in the end.

Orsino is in love with the idea of being in love and is depressed about this, so when he says "if music be the food of Love play on" he is trying to cure his depression, and Shakespeare uses a metaphor about feeding love, that refers back to the "food of love".