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- Viola. A young woman of aristocratic birth, and the play’s protagonist. 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.
- Orsino. A powerful nobleman in the country of Illyria. 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.
- Olivia. A wealthy, beautiful, and noble Illyrian lady, Olivia is courted by Orsino and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, but to each of them she insists that she is in mourning for her brother, who has recently died, and will not marry for seven years.
- Sebastian. Viola’s lost twin brother. When he arrives in Illyria, traveling with Antonio, his close friend and protector, Sebastian discovers that many people think that they know him.
Dramatic personae: a list of characters in Twelfth Night. Sir Toby Belch is Olivia’s uncle and something of a minor-league Falstaff. A penniless drunkard who sets stock by his nobility of birth, with a taste for pickled herrings that likely leave him flatulent, he makes himself quite at home at his niece’s.
Character List Orsino The Duke of Illyria and its ruler. At the opening of the comedy, he is desperately in love with Lady Olivia, who spurns his romantic overtures in spite of the fact that he is a perfect and ideal gentleman.
A clown, Feste is allowed to poke fun at the higher characters. In this role, he turns upside down the conventional social order, just as occurred during the Twelfth Night holiday (see Background Info for more detail on the Twelfth Night holiday).
Twelfth Night study guide contains a biography of William Shakespeare, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
For an analysis of various characters in Twelfth Night, one may refer to Pinaki Roy's essay “Epiphanies: Rereading Select Characters in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night”, published in Yearly Shakespeare – 2012 ISSN 0976-9536 10, April 2012: 53–60.
Were Twelfth Night not a comedy, this pressure might cause Viola to break down. Sebastian’s appearance at this point, however, effectively saves Viola by allowing her to be herself again. Sebastian, who independent of his sister is not much of a character, takes over the aspects of Viola’s disguise that she no longer wishes to maintain.
Characters Sebastian Sebastian plays a critical role in first complicating, and then resolving the central conflict, even though we know little about his feelings or motivations. After surviving the shipwreck with the help of Antonio, Sebastian has no clear purpose or plan, but decides he is “bound to the Count Orsino’s court” (2.1.).
- related to: twelfth night characters
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