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Twelfth Night Act 1 Scene 4: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Katherine Garner

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

This lesson includes a summary and brief analysis of Act 1 Scene 4 of Shakespeare's comedy ''Twelfth Night'', as well as a short quiz to test your comprehension after reading.

Introduction to Twelfth Night, Act 1 Scene 4

In this lesson, note that Viola is a woman who has disguised herself as a man named Cesario. Throughout the lesson, she is referred to primarily as Viola and with feminine pronouns, regardless of how Valentine and Orsino perceive her, with the exception of a few cases in the 'Analysis' section, where we discuss 'Cesario' from Orsino's point of view.

Orsino Sends Viola on a Mission

At the beginning of Act 1 Scene 4, Duke Orsino's messenger servant Valentine enters with Viola, who is dressed as a young man. He clearly thinks she actually is a young man, calling her Cesario. Valentine tells her that if the duke continues to find so much favor in him, he will rise up the ranks in no time. Apparently Viola has only been working for the duke for three days and he is already treating her like a close friend.

Viola is curious about Valentine's statement, asking if he means that he thinks the duke might not continue to like her, either because his taste might change or she might do something to mess their relationship up. Valentine assures her that the duke is a stable person and will probably continue to like her.

The duke enters the scene with some servants, looking for 'Cesario.' He asks Valentine and the servants to leave so that they can speak privately. Orsino tells Viola (as Cesario) that she is his closest friend and knows what is inside his soul better than anyone. He begs her to go to Olivia's home and insist on being allowed to speak with her to tell her the duke's true feelings. Viola protests, feeling sure that no one at Olivia's house will let her get through to Olivia if she is as depressed as everyone says she is.

The duke insists that she must not take no for an answer and that she needs to do whatever it takes to speak with Olivia. Viola asks him what she should do in the very unlikely event that anyone allows her to speak with Olivia. He tells her that she needs to give Olivia a lot of very detailed examples of how much he loves her. He thinks that Olivia will feel comfortable opening up to him because he really doesn't seem very much like a man; he has feminine features and a sympathetic demeanor, or attitude, that will help her open up and confide in him as if she were talking to another woman and not feel threatened.

Viola's Revelation

The duke says that his servants can all join Viola so that he can be left alone and that if she accomplishes the mission of speaking to Olivia, he will repay her with a fortune. Viola tells him that she will do her best and he exits. To herself, she muses, or reflects, how hard it will be to try to play matchmaker for a man that she loves herself.

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