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Twelfth Night

William Shakespeare

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 5

Orsino: If this be so, as yet the glass seems true,
I shall have share in this most happy wrack.
[To Viola] Boy, thou hast said to me a
thousand times
Thou never shouldst love woman like to me.

Viola: And all those sayings will I overswear,
And all those swearings keep as true in soul
As doth that orbèd continent the fire
That severs day from night.

Orsino: Give me thy hand,
And let me see thee in thy woman’s weeds.
          (V.i.258–266)

This exchange follows the climax of the play, when Sebastian and Viola are reunited, and all the misunderstandings are cleared up. Here, Orsino ushers in a happy ending for his long-suffering Viola by declaring his willingness to wed her. This quote thus sets the stage for general rejoicing—but it is worth noting that even here, the -gender ambiguities that Viola’s disguise has created still persist. Orsino knows that Viola is a woman—and a woman, apparently, to- whom he is attracted. Yet he addresses her as “Boy” in this speech, even as he is accepting her vows of love. This incident is not isolated: later, Orsino continues to call his new betrothed “Cesario,” using her male name. This odd mode of address raises, and leaves un-answered, the question of whether Orsino is in love with Cesario, the beautiful young man, or with Viola, the beautiful young woman.