Twelfth Night characters guide studies each  player's role and motivation in this famous play
William Shakespeare's plays, sonnets and poems at
Home Plays Sonnets Poems Quotes Summaries Essays Glossary Links Help

HOME > Twelfth Night Study Guide > Twelfth Night Characters

Twelfth Night Characters

Study Guides
Julius Caesar
King Henry IV
King Lear
Merchant of Venice
Romeo and Juliet
The Tempest
Twelfth Night

Bard Facts
Globe Theatre

Twelfth Night Characters guide studies each character's role and motivation in this play.

Orsino, Duke of Illyria: The ruler of Illyria. Powerful and a gentleman, he is obsessed with gaining the hand in marriage of the fair Lady Olivia, unaware that he himself has a secret admirer.

Viola and disguised as a man, Cesario: The secret admirer of Orsino, Viola comes to work for Orsino when having been shipwrecked, she disguises herself as a man, and works for the Duke. Much favored by the Duke, Viola is entrusted to convey the Duke's love to Countess Olivia. This later causes problems for Viola, who serves her master faithfully, despite desiring Orsino for herself and being the unwitting (and unwilling!) target of Countess Olivia's affections. Viola has a brother, called Sebastian who is identical to her male appearance as Cesario; she fears that he died when their ship broke up at the beginning of the play.

(Note: Cesario will be described in the third person as the man he appears to be to the other characters in this play, though Cesario is of course a women in disguise).

A Sea Captain: A friend to Viola, he helps her to disguise herself as Cesario. He initially reports Sebastian dead.

Lady Olivia: A countess of high social standing and great beauty, her hand in marriage is desired by Orsino. She has resigned herself to seven years solitude following the loss of first her father and then her much loved brother. Spurning love in all its forms, she shuns Orsino's romantic overtures, but at the sight of Cesario, falls deeply in love, causing many problems for Cesario (really Viola). She later marries Sebastian, who looking exactly like Cesario, also steals Lady Olivia's heart.

Sebastian: Viola's twin brother. When the ship he and Viola were traveling on sinks, he fears his sister dead, as her sister does of him. Frequently mistaken for Cesario, Sebastian eventually is reunited with his sister, earlier taking the hand the willing Countess Olivia as his wife.

Antonio: A Sea Captain by trade, Antonio is a man with many enemies in the Duke Orsino's court. Nonetheless he accompanies Sebastian in his travels. Memorable for the expression, "That danger shall seem sport...." (Act II, Scene I).

Sir Toby Belch, Uncle to Olivia: As Olivia's uncle, Sir Toby passes away his time drinking in Olivia's house with fellow drinker Sir Andrew Aguecheek, much to the displeasure of Olivia, her servant Maria and Olivia's uptight and humorless steward Malvolio. A great schemer of practical jokes, Sir Toby enjoys playing tricks on Malvolio, his friend Sir Andrew and anyone else who captures his fleeting attention.

Sir Andrew Aguecheek: The drinking partner of Sir Toby, he too pushes Lady Olivia's patience and hospitality with his continuously loud and lewd behavior. Described by Sir Toby as being "as tall a man as any's in Illyria", Sir Andrew is not overly intelligent, Sir Andrew like Sir Toby having little love for the annoying Malvolio and is party to a practical joke against him. Sir Andrew however is greatly valued by Sir Toby since he is rich, earning some "three thousand ducats a year." Unwittingly, Sir Andrew is also the pawn in Sir Toby's plot making. Naive by nature, he is manipulated by Sir Toby into pursuing Lady Olivia since this will maintain Sir Toby's drinking lifestyle. Later Sir Andrew is manipulated into challenging Cesario, who becomes a threat to Sir Toby's plans.

Malvolio: As Lady Olivia's steward, Malvolio sees himself in a somewhat grandiose light, imagining Olivia to love him and wishing to be more than his current rank. This and his continuous disapproval of Sir Toby and Sir Andrew's drinking, earn him their hatred and he quickly becomes their pawn in a complex romantic ruse.

Maria: Lady Olivia's woman, she is patient and tactful where Malvolio is brash and insulting. She too, disapproves of Sir Toby and company's drinking but tries tactfully to subdue their boisterous spirits. Her dislike of Malvolio leads her to create an elaborate romantic trick on Malvolio, which she also uses to calm down Sir Toby and company, who are now enthusiastic conspirator's in Malvolio's humiliation.

Feste: Referred to in the text as "The Clown" and a servant to Olivia, Feste like so many of Shakespeare's fools, speaks the truth from the source of recognized foolishness. He is much appreciated by Sir Toby, who spends many hours with him.

Fabian: A servant of Lady Olivia's, he too dislikes Malvolio, and also participates enthusiastically in Malvolio's downfall.

Valentine and Curio: Gentlemen attending Orsino at the start of the play.

Copyright 2000-2005 All rights reserved.  Contact Us  Privacy  Awards