Orlando Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Ring (Symbol)

The Queen gives Orlando a ring two years after she meets him, during the ceremony where Orlando is named the Queen’s steward. The ring has a symbolic meaning—usually, it means that a person won the favors of someone who has authority. For Orlando, the fact that the Queen gave him her ring symbolizes her affection for him.

Gender (Motif)

A recurrent motif that appears in the novel is the inability to distinguish in the beginning between one gender and the other. The first time this motif appears is when Orlando is said to appear more like a female figure than a traditional male one. In the same chapter, Orlando is unable to tell if Sasha is a male or a female because of her appearance. Similar confusion exists in the characters of Shelmerdine and the Archduke.

Instability (Motif)

A recurrent motif is the unstable character that Orlando has. He is presented as being an easily bored person who grows tired of everything around him quickly. What may be extremely important for him in a certain period of his life may appear worthless later. A clear example is his passion for literature and writing, which lasted a few years, until, one day, he decided that he would stop writing.

Poetry (Symbol)

At the end of the second chapter, Orlando manages to finish one of his poems that has a great impact on those who know him. The poem is the result of years of practice and efforts that culminate in a masterpiece. The finished poem is a symbol for Orlando’s personal maturity.

Trance (Motif)

Another motif is the fact that Orlando falls into trances that usually last seven days. Every time he falls into a trance, some change accrues in him. The first time he falls into a trance, he wakes up and finds that he can write really well, and also that he forgot many things. The second time it happens, Orlando is in Constantinople and when he wakes up, he is no longer a man.