What Does If Music Be the Food of Love Play On Mean?

If Music Be the Food of Love Play On Meaning

Definition: Music can cure heartache.

Origin of If Music Be the Food of Love Play On

This expression first appeared in the year 1602 in William Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night. One of the characters wants to hear enough music that he stops being in love, much like eating too much food makes you stop being hungry.


If music be the food of love, play on;

Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,

The appetite may sicken, and so die.

That strain again! it had a dying fall:

O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound,

That breathes upon a bank of violets,

Stealing and giving odour! Enough; no more:

‘Tis not so sweet now as it was before.

O spirit of love! how quick and fresh art thou,

That, notwithstanding thy capacity

Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there,

Of what validity and pitch soe’er,

But falls into abatement and low price,

Even in a minute: so full of shapes is fancy

That it alone is high fantastical.

Orsino asks for more music because he is frustrated in his courtship of Countess Olivia.

Examples of If Music Be the Food of Love Play On

shakespeare if music be the food of loveIn the dialogue below, two friends are talking about dating problems.

Ezekiel: You know what I was thinking? We should go to a concert this weekend.

Maggie: That sounds fun, and normally I’d love to go with you, but unfortunately I’m just not in the mood.

Ezekiel: Why not?

Maggie: Well, I was dating this guy, and I really liked him. It seemed like he liked me, too. Anyway, he hasn’t replied to my texts, so I’m feeling kind of depressed.

Ezekiel: Maybe he’s just busy.

Maggie: It’s possible, but not likely.

Ezekiel: Well, do you know that saying, “If music be the food of love, play on”? It means music can help you forget your problems in romance. Come to the concert. It will distract you from that guy.

Maggie: That’s probably true. Okay. I’ll do it.

if music be the food of love shakespeareIn this example, one friend won’t get out of bed.

Tyrion: Who’s there? Who entered my house?

Mila: It’s me! I was worried about you. You haven’t answered your phone in days, and no one has seen you at work. What’s wrong with you?

Tyrion: My girlfriend broke up with me. I’m heartbroken!

Mila: Well, you’ll never feel better if you just stay in your dark room crying in your bed. Are you playing the same song over and over on repeat?

Tyrion: Yes. If music be the food of love play on! This song helps me feel better about my lost love.

More Examples

This excerpt is about the line in the play that it came from. It is from a review of the play.

  • Carroll is extremely adept at delivering Shakespearean lines as naturally as today’s speech. “If music be the food of love, play on,” trills Orsino in the opening line of the play. –OC Register

This excerpt is from an article about a circus show.

  • As it has for 31 years, the snug, one-ring spectacle wraps its acts in a theme. This time out, it’s “Play On!” The creators pinched a line from the Bard (as in, “If music be the food of love, play on”).–New York Daily News


The saying if music be the food of love play on is a famous line from one of Shakespeare’s plays. It refers to the idea that music can fill a person’s heart and make them stop feeling heartbroken, just like food can fill a person’s stomach and make them stop feeling hungry.