Summary Of Twelfth Night

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Twelfth Night is a romantic comedy written by Shakespeare in 1601. In the gap scene, the supporter Viola is shipwrecked on the shores of Illyria, losing contact with her twin brother, Sebastian. For the interest of her safety, Viola decides to mask herself as a adult male -a page named Cesario and serve to the Duke, Orsino. The narrative is complicated by a love trigon. Viola is in love with Orsino, who falls in love with the beautiful noblewoman Olivia, who in bend falls in love with Viola. In the terminal Sebastian and Olivia autumn in love and marry. The duke realizes he has loved Viola wholly along when Viola resumes her female individuality. Viola eventually agrees to get married Orsino. Sir Toby Belch and Maria besides decide to get married. Everyone has a happy stoping except the chesty, self-loved and societal climber Mavolio.


Was Shakespeare a woman hater? This inquiry is argued by many critics. Some oppositions ground that all major female characters die in Hamlet and Othello. In add-on, the celebrated line “ Frailty, thy name is adult female ” ( Hamlet, Act 1, scene 2 ) stirs many arguments. Others debate that that stating is non spoken by Shakespeare but Hamlet. Indeed, we can non happen out the truth as Shakespeare left no academic resources stating us what he really thought. That is why we can merely infer from his plants and the context of the times he lived in. In early modern England, celibacy, silence, and obeisance were regarded as the ideal characters of adult females ( Suzanne, 1982 ) . Womans were regarded as belongingss in the patriarchal society. Most of them were uneducated and were married off for wealth. They took attention of the family and needed to delight their hubbies and the societal norms. Womans who violate these limitations were considered as unladylike and uneven. Yet, a figure of female characters in Shakespeare ‘s plants are determined, clever, and independent. They are non presented as weak, beautiful heroines who waited the heroes to salvage them. Examples are Lady Macbeth, Portia in “ The Merchant of Venice ” , Beatrice in “ Much Ado About Nothing ” and Viola in “ Twelfth dark ” . This paper aims at analyzing the ways Shakespeare portrays the three female characters Maria, Olivia and Viola in the drama Twelfth Night.

Analysis of female characters in Twelfth Night

Maria is a devoted retainer of Olivia. She is opinionated and shrewd. Although Maria has a low societal category, she dares to talk her head. For case, she says “ By my engagement, Sir Toby, you must come in earlier a ‘ darks: Your cousin, my lady, takes great exclusions to your sick hours. ” ( Act 1, Scene 3 ) . Maria straight tells Sir Toby that her lady Olivia is non fond of his behavior-‘ill ‘ hours. This clearly shows that Maria is non restricted by her lower societal position and subsidiary to Sir Toby who has a higher societal category than hers.

On the other manus, Maria is portrayed as a cunning mind in the drama. She masterminds a buffoonery to play on Malvolio, the chesty, self-love steward at Olivia ‘s house. She wants to learn him a lesson because of his changeless unfavorable judgment, pecking and condescending attitude. “ I can compose really like my lady your niece: on a disregarded affair we can barely do differentiation of our custodies. ” ( Act 2, Scene 3 ) . From Maria ‘s stating, we know that Maria can copy Olivia ‘s script. Hence, she pens a missive looking that Olivia is in love with Malvolio. Upon reading it, Malvolio is trapped and he naively thinks that Olivia loves him. He follows “ Olivia ‘s ” instructions and behaves highly odd that Olivia even thinks he has gone huffy.

As Olivia ‘s amah, Maria would be considered portion of the on the job category. It is surprising and impressive that Sir Toby finally chooses to get married her. As William ( 2004, p179 ) says “ She fits in with Sir Toby Belch ‘s position of the universe ” . It is non overdone to state that it is her witty that wins the bosom of Toby Belch.

When the drama begins, Olivia is in deep bereavement for her dead brother and refuses to see anyone for seven old ages. It seems that her inordinate bereavement is non so different from Duke Orsino ‘s love-melancholy. She seems to bask indulging in wretchedness. Olivia, nevertheless, is non wholly hopeless. She is courageous plenty to step beyond the confines of her adult female roles in society and dispute the chiseled functions of the male universe.

Olivia is a female character that ‘acts outside her adult female function ‘ . First of wholly, it seems that she has no existent ground to reject the progresss of the Duke Orsino. She even admits to his attractive qualities, stating that he is “ of great estate, of fresh and unstained young person ; ” ( Act 1, Scene 5 ) every bit good as “ in dimension and the form of nature / A gracious individual ” ( Act 1, Scene 5 ) . However, she is resolute and refuses to subject to the work forces that she does n’t love. Besides, her strength can be seen from her opinion over her family, retainers and even her uncle. In this facet, Olivia is rather similar to Queen Elizabeth who was besides a strong adult female and refused all suers.

On the other manus, Olivia is brave to show her love. She says “ Thy lingua, thy face, thy limbs, actions and spirit, Do give thee quintuple coat of arms ” ( Act 1, Scene 5 ) .When she falls in love with Cesario at first sight, she works difficult to court him. She repeatedly asks him to come back to her estate by utilizing assorted fast ones and jobs. Olivia takes on the function of the huntsman where she would usually be hunted. She besides breaks the regulation that she should get married a adult male of equal societal position. She does non care about the convention and continues to prosecute the immature retainer, Cesario. From these cases, Olivia creates an image of an sceptered adult female.

Last but non least, Viola is a fantastic illustration of resolute female character on phase. Viola, being the female supporter in Twelfth Night, is the strongest character. In a foreign and unfamiliar state, she is able to populate independently without any aid from a hubby or defenders. Apart from that, she is extremely self-controlled and does non unwrap her female individuality. This contrasts greatly with the emotional male character Orsino.

In the undermentioned citation, Orsino claims that adult females ‘s love is non every bit passionate as work forces ‘s love.

“ There is no adult female ‘s sides

Can stay the whipping of so strong a passion

As love doth give my bosom ; no adult female ‘s bosom

So large, to keep so much. They lack keeping…

But mine is all every bit hungry as the sea,

And can digest every bit much. Make no comparison

Between that love a adult female can bear

And that I owe Olivia. ” ( Act 2, Scene 4 )

Viola responds that she knows how adult females feel towards their love. She says, “ Excessively good what love adult females to work forces may owe. In religion, they are as true of bosom as we. ” ( Act 2, Scene 4 ) . Viola defends that there is no difference between male and female Black Marias. Women ‘s bosom is in fact every bit true as adult male ‘s bosom. Viola is depicted as rebelliousness to the typical gender of females.

Howard ( 1988, p 424 ) points out that in early modern England, a adult male dressed as female was recognized as “ monstrous ” , while a adult female dressed as male was thought a “ prostitute ” . It seems that Shakespeare intentionally reversed Viola ‘s gender function to distribute a message that adult females can still be nice. They should non be oppressed to show their individuality. Charles ( 1997, p127 ) further suggests that Viola “ disturbances essentialist concepts of gender hierarchy by successfully executing the portion of a adult male as adult female ” . Shakespeare brings out the thought of gender equality through Viola.

The thought of gender equality is farther supported via the significances behind the names Orsino and Viola. Winfried ( 1983, p 135 ) indicates that Orsino means “ small bear ” which was considered as a “ genuinely melancholy animate being ” in the Renaissance. Viola, on the other manus, means flower violet which was normally used as a medicine for melancholy. To repeat this consequence, Orsino speaks of “ a bank of violets ” in Act 1, scene 1. From this, we can see that Viola serves an of import function as conveying balance between males and females.


This paper does non take to turn out whether Shakespeare was a woman hater or a women’s rightist, which as I mention supra is rather impossible. He may merely use the female characters to construct the secret plan. However, we can see that all the three adult females in the drama Twelfth Night significantly differ to those typical adult females in Shakespearean times. Maria, Olivia and Viola are wilful and they all act outside the box. From an grasp angle, Shakespeare did make planar or the alleged multi-layered female characters who are independent and have their ain thought. They are non the delicate decorating vase. They are no difference to the work forces.