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Twelfth Night

William Shakespeare

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 2

Make me a willow cabin at your gate
And call upon my soul within the house,
Write loyal cantons of contemnèd love,
And sing them loud even in the dead of night;
Hallow your name to the reverberate hills,
And make the babbling gossip of the air
Cry out ’Olivia!’ O, you should not rest
Between the elements of air and earth
But you should pity me.
         (I.v.237–245)

Viola (in her disguise as Cesario) delivers this speech to Olivia after Orsino has sent her to carry his messages of love to Olivia. In this speech, however, Cesario sets aside the prepared messages and instead tells Olivia what he would do if he were in love with her. This speech is significant, then, because it sets the stage for Olivia’s infatuation with the person she thinks is Cesario: instead of helping win Olivia for Orsino, Cesario’s passionate words make Olivia fall in love with him. This development is understandable, when one considers what Viola says here—she insists that she would be outside Olivia’s gate night and day, proclaiming her love, until Olivia took “pity” on her. This kind of devotion contrasts sharply with the way Orsino actually pursues his courtship of Olivia: instead of planting himself outside her door and demonstrating his devotion, he prefers to remain at home, lolling on couches and complaining of his broken heart. The contrast, then, between the devotion that Viola imagines here and the self-involvement that characterizes Orsino’s passion for Olivia, suggests that Viola has a better understanding than Orsino of what true love should be.