She has lost contact with her twin brother, Sebastian, whom she believes to be drowned and with the aid of the Captain, she disguises herself as a young man under the name Cesario, and enters the service of Duke Orsino. Duke Orsino has convinced himself that he is in love with Olivia, who is mourning the recent deaths of her father and brother. She refuses to see entertainments, be in the company of men, or accept love or marriage proposals from anyone, the Duke included, until seven years have passed. Duke Orsino then uses 'Cesario' as an intermediary to profess his passionate love before Olivia.
Washed up on the shore of Illyria when her ship is wrecked in a storm, Viola decides to make her own way in the world. She disguises herself as a young man, calling herself "Cesario," and becomes a page to Duke Orsino.
She ends up falling in love with Orsino—even as Olivia, the woman Orsino is courting, falls in love with Cesario. Thus, Viola finds that her clever disguise has entrapped her: Her poignant plight is the central conflict in the play.
Read an in-depth analysis of Viola. Orsino is lovesick for the beautiful Lady Olivia, but becomes more and more fond of his handsome new page boy, Cesario, who is actually a woman—Viola. Orsino is a vehicle through which the play explores the absurdity of love: His attraction to the ostensibly male Cesario injects sexual ambiguity into his character.
Read an in-depth analysis of Orsino. She and Orsino are similar characters in that each seems to enjoy wallowing in his or her own misery. Olivia seems to have no difficulty transferring her affections from one love interest to the next, however, suggesting that her romantic feelings—like most emotions in the play—do not run deep.
Read an in-depth analysis of Olivia. When he arrives in Illyria, traveling with Antonio, his close friend and protector, Sebastian discovers that many people think that they know him. Furthermore, the beautiful Lady Olivia, whom he has never met, wants to marry him.
Sebastian is not as well rounded a character as his sister. He seems to exist to take on the role that Viola fills while disguised as Cesario—namely, the mate for Olivia. Malvolio is very efficient but also very self-righteous, and he has a poor opinion of drinking, singing, and fun.
His priggishness and haughty attitude earn him the enmity of Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Maria, who play a cruel trick on him, making him believe that Olivia is in love with him. In his fantasies about marrying his mistress, he reveals a powerful ambition to rise above his social class.
Read an in-depth analysis of Malvolio.
He earns his living by making pointed jokes, singing old songs, being generally witty, and offering good advice cloaked under a layer of foolishness. In spite of being a professional fool, Feste often seems the wisest character in the play. Olivia lets Sir Toby Belch live with her, but she does not approve of his rowdy behavior, practical jokes, heavy drinking, late-night carousing, or friends specifically the idiotic Sir Andrew.
Sir Toby also earns the ire of Malvolio. Together they bring about the triumph of chaotic spirit, which Sir Toby embodies, and the ruin of the controlling, self-righteous Malvolio. Maria is remarkably similar to her antagonist, Malvolio, who harbors aspirations of rising in the world through marriage.
But Maria succeeds where Malvolio fails—perhaps because she is a woman, but, more likely, because she is more in tune than Malvolio with the anarchic, topsy-turvy spirit that animates the play.
He thinks that he is witty, brave, young, and good at languages and dancing, but he is actually an idiot. Antonio has become very fond of Sebastian, caring for him, accompanying him to Illyria, and furnishing him with money—all because of a love so strong that it seems to be romantic in nature.
Despite the ambiguous and shifting gender roles in the play, Twelfth Night remains a romantic comedy in which the characters are destined for marriage.Gender is a biggie in Twelfth Night, and the play brilliantly demonstrates how gender, a socially constructed identity, can be "performed" and impersonated with the use of voice, costume, and mannerisms.
The theme is largely explored in relation to Shakespeare's profession as an actor and writer for a transvestite stage (in Elizabethan times, all-male acting companies performed the roles of women). The fluidity and ambiguity with which Viola presents gender is central to the drama of Twelfth Night.
But to what extent are Viola’s gender roles essential to the comedy of the play? The arrivals of Viola and Sebastian in Illyria serve as the catalysts for drama in Twelfth Night.
The Attractive Bent-Gender trope as used in popular culture. Whenever a male is turned into a female (or sometimes just when he dresses as one), he/she will . The relationship between gender and performance is particularly complex in Twelfth Night because the part of Viola is played by a boy actor, who is cross-dressed as a female character, who disguises herself as a young man.
Of course, the text also meditates on the relationship between gender and desire as it explores the erotics of androgyny. The themes of gender roles and gender relations frequently appear in William Shakespeare’s plays and are readily apparent in Twelfth Night.
The character Viola learns firsthand how gender identity plays a crucial role in how one is treated by other men and women when . Crowder 1. Shakespeare's Twelfth Night: Disguise, Gender Roles, and Goal Setting Shakespeare is perhaps the greatest playwright that ever lived.