Characters are human beings or animals in novels, stories, and poems. The authors show their beliefs, ideas and philosophical foundations through these characters. Major characters in Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare are not only interesting and also bring humor through their actions. Some of the major characters of the play are discussed below.
Characters in Twelfth Night
Viola is Sebastian’s twin sister and is forced to disguise as a man named Cesario. The entire play revolves around this conflict. Viola is bold, and shrewd too. She also becomes a messenger for Orsino and carries letters to Olivia. As she falls in love with Orsino, she dwells in constant conflict. She boldly scolds Olivia and struggles to be herself. Strangely, Olivia falls in love with Viola mistaking him for a man. However, she continues to hint about her love for Orsino on many occasions. After Sebastian’s arrival, Viola finally reveals the truth and marries Orsino.
Orsino, Duke or Count of Illyria
Duke Orsino is the count of Illyria who loves Olivia. Instead of meeting her directly, he always uses a third person to express his love. He loves music and uses it as a cure when Olivia refuses to accept his proposal. Everything changes after Viola’s arrival, who pretends to be Cesario. Orsino refuses to move on and continues to display the silliness of his love-sick nature. He begins to like Viola, despite knowing she is a boy and uses her as a messenger to Olivia. By the end of the play, Orsino is glad to know that Cesario is, in fact, Viola and marries her.
Sebastian is Viola’s twin brother, who is saved by Antonio from the shipwreck. After the accident, he does not see any purpose in life. Instead of mourning, he decides to visit Illyria. While he goes about in the city, he is mistaken for Cesario, who is his sister Viola. When Olivia helps him, he returns her gesture with kindness as well. However, Olivia believes Sebastian is Cesario too and expresses her love toward him. Later, he discovers that his sister is alive and his confusion comes to an end.
Olivia refuses to accept Orsino’s love to mourn for her brother. She keeps refusing Orsino’s love-sick advances. She also depends on her court jester, Sir Toby, who is her uncle and prideful Malvolio, who secretly hopes to woo Olivia. She also finds herself attracted to Viola, who is pretending to be Cesario and brings a message from Orsino. When Olivia openly declares her love to Cesario, who rejects her advances. She gets confused as believes that Sebastian is Cesario, when Sebastian, pretending to be Cesario treats her kindly. The entire confusion is resolved by the end when Olivia realizes that all along she was attracted to a woman and married Sebastion, who is Viola’s twin brother. Finally, she is also happy that Viola will marry Orsino.
Malvolio is Olivia’s head servant. He is perhaps very religious and self-righteous. He dislikes Sir Toby and Maria’s behavior. He also loved Olivia secretly. Malvolio is also ambitious and always uptight because he wants to be part of a high social circle. He is tricked by Maria’s letter when she forges a letter. Malvolio believes that Olivia had written the letters and obliges all the request written in it. That leads him to act in a bizarre manner wearing funny clothes, including the color disliked by Olivia. Later, Sir Toby and Maria apologize and make amends.
Antonio is a mysterious character. He also kind because he does not leave Sebastian even after the shipwreck and arrives at the court of Orsino to stay with him. Antonio is probably infatuated with Sebastian, but that is never portrayed or expressed by him, it comes almost close to it. However, he deeply cared for Sebastian and looked after his financial needs. The relationship between Antonio and Sebastian can be stated as loyalty, genuine friendship, and love.
Olivia’s maid, Maria, is the opposite character to Malvolio. Though Maria and Malvolio hated each other, they were loyal to Olivia. At first, she tries to control Sir Toby and others but eventually joins them to plot against Malvolio. Because of her devotion and wit, she wins Sir Toby’s heart and eventually marries him.
Sir Toby Belch
Sir Toby is Olivia’s uncle, who lives at her court. Though is from a noble background, he despises Malvolio for his nature. Sir Toby’s friendship with Sir Andrew further makes him taunt Malvolio. With Maria’s help, he succeeds in humiliating Malvolio and later makes amends with him. He falls in love with Maria for her wit and funny nature. At the end of the play, his love and eventual marriage with Maria shows the good side of his character.
Feste is a comedian or jester who is very amusing, knows how to play with words and as well as music. He tries to help Olivia to overcome her sadness after her brother’s death. Feste cared for Olivia because he knew her father. He offers his services to both Orsino and Olivia and wins their hearts. He joins Maria, Sir Toby to display his hatred toward Malvolio. His wit helps him have a decent income too.
Sir Andrew Aguecheek is Sir Toby’s friend. He appears a very interesting person, but he is quite the opposite of what he claims. He has a habit of misunderstanding whatever Sir Toby says and is boastful. He loves to pick fights. He also wants to marry Olivia and even challenges Cesario to have a duel with him. Finally, Sir Toby helps Andrew understand his flaws.