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Twelfth Night Act 1 Scene 2: Summary & Analysis

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Instructor: Katherine Garner

Katie teaches middle school English/Language Arts and has a master's degree in Secondary English Education

This lesson includes a synopsis and analysis of Act 1 Scene 2 of Shakespeare's comedy Twelfth Night as well as a short quiz to test your comprehension. Updated: 11/12/2021

Viola Arrives in Illyria

Act 1 Scene 2 of Twelfth Night takes place on the shore of the sea bordering Illyria. There is a captain, several sailors, and a young woman who appear to have just washed up to the land. The woman, Viola, asks where they are. The captain replies that they have arrived in Illyria. Viola says that Illyria is no good to her and that her brother is probably in Elysium, which is another word for heaven. We learn that they had just survived a shipwreck and Viola got separated from her brother.

She asks the captain if he thinks that there is any chance at all that he may have survived. The captain comforts her, saying that she survived by chance and he probably had the same small chance of survival that she did. He also adds that when her brother was still in sight, he saw him hold tight to a mast and ride the waves, seemingly in control.

Viola is comforted by these words, especially because the captain is more familiar with sailing and the sea, so his words have credibility, or seem believable. She gives some money to him for saying kind words and asks about Illyria.

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  • 0:04 Viola Arrives in Illyria
  • 1:13 Viola Hatches a Plan
  • 2:48 Analysis
  • 3:33 Lesson Summary
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Viola Hatches a Plan

The captain tells her that he used to live several hours away from Illyria and seems to know the area well; he tells her about the duke Orsino, whom Viola's father once knew. He tells her that recently the duke has become interested in Olivia, but Olivia is not interested in suitors or even leaving her house, because her father died years ago and her brother just died recently.

Viola says that she would like to work for Olivia in some capacity, perhaps as a servant, so that she could remain out of the public eye until she is ready to reveal her identity. The captain thinks that might be difficult because Olivia has told her servants to not allow anyone to speak to her, not even Orsino's messengers.

Viola then decides that she could work for the duke instead. She compliments the captain, saying that she believes he is a good person even though he is handsome; often handsome people are not so good on the inside.

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