Act I - Scene IV

Duke Orsino' Court

[Enter Valentine, and Viola in man's attire.]

If the Duke continue these favours towards you,
Cesario, you are like to be much advanced: he hath known
you but three days, and already you are no stranger.
You either fear his humour or my negligence, that you
call in question the continuance of his love: is he inconstant,(5)
sir, in his favours?
No, believe me.

[Enter Duke, Curio, and Attendants.]

I thank you. Here comes the Count.
Who saw Cesario, ho?
On your attendance, my lord; here.(10)
Stand you awhile aloof.—Cesario,
Thou know'st no less but all; I have unclasp'd
To thee the book even of my secret soul:
Therefore, good youth, address thy gait unto her;
Be not denied access, stand at her doors,(15)
And tell them, there thy fixed foot shall grow
Till thou have audience.
Sure, my noble lord,
If she be so abandon'd to her sorrow
As it is spoke, she never will admit me.(20)
Be clamorous and leap all civil bounds,
Rather than make unprofited return.
Say I do speak with her, my lord, what then?
O, then unfold the passion of my love,
Surprise her with discourse of my dear faith:(25)
It shall become thee well to act my woes;
She will attend it better in thy youth
Than in a nuncio's of more grave aspect.
I think not so, my lord.
Dear lad, believe it;(30)
For they shall yet belie thy happy years,
That say thou art a man: Diana's lip
Is not more smooth and rubious; thy small pipe
Is as the maiden's organ, shrill and sound,
And all is semblative a woman's part.(35)
I know thy constellation is right apt
For this affair. Some four or five attend him:
All, if you will; for I myself am best
When least in company. Prosper well in this
And thou shalt live as freely as thy lord,(40)
To call his fortunes thine.
I'll do my best
To woo your lady. [Aside] Yet, a barful strife!
Whoe'er I woo, myself would be his wife.



  1. Viola’s instant love could come from Orsino’s poetic allusions in his previous speech. His use of the poetic blazon to describe Cesario invokes the motif of poetry and shows that there is no stronger power over human emotions than poetry and writing.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Viola’s sudden confession of love could be a rhetorical device that shows the audience how Viola’s emotions have developed over the time that has passed. The suddenness of this reaction could also show that Viola immediately falls in love with Orsino when he describes her as beautiful.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. To describe Cesario, Orsino uses a poetic blazon, in which the speaker fragments his love object into her physical parts in order to compare each fragment to something natural and perfect. For example, skin as white as snow, lips red like a rose.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. By “fixed foot” Orsino means that Cesario will not move until he has an audience; his foot will grow heavier and more “fixed” until Olivia grants him an audience. A “foot’ is also a unit of measurement in poetry used to determine meter. A poetic foot contains one stressed syllable and one unstressed syllable. In more metaphorical terms, “foot” could be used to refer to the feet of a mathematical compass, as it does in John Donne’s “Valediction Forbidding Mourning.” In this metaphor, one foot remains fixed and the other moves around it. All three meanings emphasize that Orsino means for Cesario to root himself to one spot until he is able to speak to Olivia.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. A “nuncio” is someone who bears a message. It also signifies an ambassador for the pope who bears his will to foreign courts. Although Orsino is not saying that he is an ambassador for the pope, his use of the word “nuncio” adds a level of gravity, or emphasis, to the message he is sending.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Orsino’s command touches on the theme of performance, especially emotions as a type of performance. This further suggests that Orsino’s love for Olivia is more of a pose of love that anyone can assume. Viola is able to “act his woes” because he is also acting.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. Orsino is once again referring to his lover and her affection with monetary metaphors. In this instance, her affections for him are compared to “profit.” Monetary metaphors such as this one show that Orsino sees Olivia as an object, something that can be bought, sold, and owned.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. Throughout the play, letters, handwriting, and poetry are motifs that show the power of writing over human emotions. Here, Orsino refers to his feelings as part of a “book” that he has entrusted to Cesario. The word “book” is significant because it frames his feelings as a story: the power of Orsino’s love comes from its narrative structure.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. Notice that Shakespeare uses these first lines to show that time has passed: Viola has successfully endeared herself to the duke as Cesario, a young eunuch. These lines reveal that Cesario has not only begun working for Orsino but has become a trusted confidant.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff