Twelfth Night Plot and Characters

Twelfth Night This play features comic relief in the form of characters like Sir Toby Belch, the fool Feste, and the steward Malvolio; a comedy, subtitled “What You Will,” tells the story of long-lost siblings
Setting (place) The mythical land of Illyria (Illyria is a real place, corresponding to the coast of present-day Albania—but Twelfth Night is clearly set in a fictional kingdom rather than a real one)
Major conflict Viola is in love with Orsino, who is in love with Olivia, who is in love with Viola’s male disguise, Cesario. This love triangle is complicated by the fact that neither Orsino nor Olivia knows that Viola is really a woman.
Rising action The mounting confusion, mistaken identities, and professions of love leading up to Act V
Falling action Viola prepares to marry Orsino; Malvolio is freed and vows revenge; everyone else goes off to celebrate
Themes Love as a cause of suffering; the uncertainty of gender; the folly of ambition
Motifs Letters, messages, and tokens; madness; disguises; mistaken identity
Symbols Olivia’s gifts; the darkness of Malvolio’s prison; changes of clothing
Climax Sebastian and Viola are reunited, and everyone realizes that Viola is really a woman
Sir Toby Belch Olivia’s uncle who lives with her. Rowdy, alcoholic, practical joker. Olivia does not like the things he does or his friends.
Sir Andrew Aguecheek attempts to court Olivia; drinks a lot; always wants to fight but backs out last minute; idiotic personality
Maria Smart, knows Olivia and writes like Olivia. Olivia’s lady-in-waiting. She is secretly in love with Sir Toby. She instigates a scheme for revenge on Malvolio.
Malvolio Head servant to lady Olivia. Very efficient but also self-righteous. Believes Olivia is in love with him.
Orsino sick of self love; very dramatic and fickle; originally loves Olivia (later marries Viola) Duke of Illyria
Antonio a sea captain and a friend of Sebastian
Feste a clown and servant to Olivia
Valentine and Curio Two gentlemen who attend Duke Orsino.
Shakespeare A popular English playwright and poet in the 16th century.
Viola is shipwrecked and fears that her twin brother, Sebastian, is drowned. Witty and charming, she disguises herself as Cesario, a young man, and attains employment with Duke Orsino. Orsino sends her to court Lady Olivia for himself, but instead, Olivia falls in love with “him” – Cesario.
Lady Olivia Olivia is a wealthy countess. At her first appearance, she vows to mourn her brother’s death for seven years. However, when she meets Orsino’s intermediary (Cesario), she falls in love with “him” and foregoes her mourning period. Olivia is a derivation of the word olive, the symbol of peace. (Note 1.5.209, when Cesario holds and olive in his hand to give to Olivia).