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      • Viola is the central character in Shakespeare’s play, Twelfth Night. She is washed up on a beach in Illyria after losing her twin brother in a shipwreck. She disguises herself as a boy, gives herself the name Cesario and finds employment with Duke Orsino , the wealthy young ruler of Illyria. Gwyneth Paltrow as Viola in Twelfth Night
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  2. Twelfth Night. Like most of Shakespeare’s heroines, Viola is a tremendously likable figure. She has no serious faults, and we can easily discount the peculiarity of her decision to dress as a man, since it sets the entire plot in motion. She is the character whose love seems the purest. The other characters’ passions are fickle: Orsino jumps from Olivia to Viola, Olivia jumps from Viola to Sebastian, and Sir Toby and Maria’s marriage seems more a matter of whim than an expression of ...

  3. The protagonist of Twelfth Night. An aristocratic woman, she is tossed up on the coast of Illyria by a shipwreck at the beginning of the play and disguises herself as the pageboy, Cesario, to make her way. Throughout the play, Viola exhibits strength of character, quick wit, and

    • What Is Twelfth Night About?
    • Viola Character Sketch
    • Viola’s Role in Twelfth Night
    • Viola and Gender Bending

    Twelfth Night is a mature work, written around 1602, about the same time as Hamlet. It is a fast-paced romantic comedy with several interwoven plots of romance, mistaken identities and practical jokes. The play presents the confused romantic pursuits of a group of aristocrats in a small Italian state. After Viola, disguised as Cesario, enters the service of Duke Orsino, he asks her to woo Countess Olivia for him, but Olivia falls in love with Cesario instead. Viola’s twin brother, Sebastian, who she assumed died in the shipwreck, arrives in Illyria. Olivia mistakes Sebastian for Cesario and is betrothed to him. Orsino accuses Cesario of treachery and Viola reveals her true identity, thus ending the confusion. Orsino asks Viola to marry him, and she accepts. There are several comic characters thrown in, to make it a thoroughly enjoyable theatrical experience.

    All through the play Viola shows strength of character, a quick wit and enormous resourcefulness. Being disguised as a boy leads to an impossible position but in spite of that she maintains self-control and a dignity that contrasts with the excessive emotions of the other main characters. Viola is arguably the most delightful and engaging female character in Shakespeare’s comedies. She finds herself in the middle of some extreme emotions – Orsino’s excessive lovesickness, expressed with comic melancholy and Olivia’s aggressive pursuit of Viola whom she believes to be a boy. Viola’s common sense behaviour in response represents the normal emotions of a reasonable person: she immediately finds a way to deal with it – to make herself safe and to get on with things. As a result of her circumstances, she demonstrates a high degree of practicality and resourcefulness. She is in a shipwrecked, vulnerable situation so she disguises herself as a boy so that she will be safe and have a man’s...

    Viola is the catalyst that drives the plot forward. Her arrival in Illyria begins the plot, and the two other main characters falling in love with her opens several plot lines in which her responses to both create more dramatic events. Viola is a dream role for an actor. Of all Shakespeare’s female roles it is Viola that provides the most scope and potential for an actor.

    Shakespeare was interested in providing ways in which the audience could suspend their disbelief, giving them something they could easily relate to and become engaged with. Women did not appear on the stage in Shakespeare’s time. There was no specific law about that but the authorities would not have allowed it. Shakespeare found a solution, which he used in two comedies, As You Like It and Twelfth Night. He introduces a female character at the beginning of a play then has her disguised as a man for the rest of the play until, in the final scene, she reveals herself as a woman. In those cases the boy playing the role is able to present himself as a male and be convincing as a male. We see that with Viola, and Rosalind in As You Like It. In the modern theatre we are always aware by body language, voice, gestures, and so on, that we are watching a woman disguised as a man. The Elizabethan audience, watching the male actors in those roles, could forget that and not be distracted by the...

  4. www.playshakespeare.com › twelfth-night › charactersViola - PlayShakespeare.com

    Viola. Viola is a lady of Messaline. When dressed as a man she is identical to her twin brother Sebastian. Shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria, convinced that her brother is drowned, she disguises herself as a man for her own safety, and seeks refuge at Orsino’s court, where she quickly becomes his favorite page under the name of Cesario.

  5. Character Analysis. Viola. For most critics, Viola is one of Shakespeare's most delightful and beloved feminine creations from his comedies. Surrounded by characters who express the extremes of emotionalism and melancholy — that is, Viola is caught between Duke Orsino's extreme melancholy and Lady Olivia's aggressive emotionalism — yet she represents the norm of behavior in this strange world of Illyria.

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