Sebastian in Twelfth Night: Character Traits & Analysis

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
Separated from his sister Viola following a shipwreck, Sebastian reappears, and throws the rest of the characters in William Shakespeare's comedy 'Twelfth Night' into chaos. Read the lesson, then test yourself with the quiz!

Who is That Guy?

We've all been there. You are at the mall, once again trying to decide with your friends which movie you'll see, or whose turn it is to get the popcorn. Suddenly, out of the corner of your eye, you see the guy you have had a crush on since school started. You smile, and start to catch his eye, but wait! Are you sure that's the guy? He's really cute, and he looks almost identical to the boy you like. You better make sure it is actually him, before any embarrassment occurs.

That is the situation Sebastian finds himself in, in William Shakespeare's comedic play, Twelfth Night. Sebastian is missing for part of the play, presumed dead in the same shipwreck that brought Viola, his twin sister, to Illyria. The audience learns that not only is Sebastian alive, but he comes to Duke Orsino's court, saddened by what he thinks is the loss of his sister. When he arrives, however, everyone thinks that they know him, with one beautiful, wealthy noblewoman even proposing marriage!

Character Traits

Sebastian is a very self-absorbed character in Twelfth Night. His primary motivation always seems to be what works best for him. Antonio saves Sebastian, and gives him food and shelter, and cares for him to the point of putting himself in danger, but Sebastian is really focused on his own needs and wants, and what is happening in the moment. Sebastian notes in Act Four that he hasn't seen Antonio in a while, but does not give the matter another thought. Is that how you treat the person who saves you?

It also appears that Sebastian is ruled a great deal by his emotions. He is overcome with grief in thinking that Viola is dead, and wants to travel to take his mind off of it. However, he isn't so overcome as to not fall in love with Olivia! Despite only knowing her for a short time, he agrees to marry her, and seems to be in love with her at the end of the play.

Olivia, Sebastian, and a Priest
Olivia, Sebastian, and A Priest

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