Twelfth Night Act 3 Scene 1: 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 3 Scene 1 of Shakespeare's comedy 'Twelfth Night', as well as a brief quiz to test your comprehension.

Cesario Comes to Olivia's Garden

In Act 3 Scene 1 of Twelfth Night, Viola comes to Olivia's garden, once more disguised as Cesario. Orsino has sent her back to again try to convince Olivia to accept him as a suitor. Viola meets a fool and they exchange witty remarks. At the end of their conversation Viola says to herself that it must actually take a certain kind of intelligence to be as good of a fool as he is because he tailors his jokes and behavior to the mood and social class of the people he talks to.

At that moment, Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek enter the garden. Toby invites Viola inside to speak to Olivia, but before she has the chance, Olivia and Maria come into the garden. Viola says she needs to give Olivia her message in private and Olivia orders everyone else to leave. Olivia asks Viola what 'his' name is and she replies 'Cesario,' and that Olivia can consider him her servant because Orsino is basically Olivia's servant and Cesario is his.

Olivia brushes off the mention of Orsino, saying she wishes he would stop thinking about her so much, and asks Cesario to stop talking about him. She then changes the subject, mentioning the ring that she sent Malvolio to give back to him the last time he visited.

Olivia Makes a Confession

The last time Viola visited Olivia as Cesario in Act 1 Scene 5, Olivia said Cesario left a ring there and told Malvolio to run after him and return it. When Malvolio gave it back to Cesario, he acted as if he had no idea where it came from. Now, in Act 3 Scene 1, Olivia admits to Cesario that she made up the left behind ring so that she could give something to him to show her affection. She asks if Cesario can look beyond her dishonesty and see that she is taking a risk by telling him that she loves him.

Cesario replies that he feels sorry for Olivia and that he cannot love her. Olivia suggests that pity is not that far away from love, but Cesario argues that sometimes people feel sorry for their enemies. Olivia finally says that she will not waste any more time loving him and that when he is old enough to love a woman and get married, his wife will be very lucky. Cesario prepares to leave, but Olivia asks him what he thinks of her. Cesario replies that he thinks Olivia is denying who she really is and Olivia says she thinks Cesario is doing the same. This is more true than she knows, because Cesario is in fact Viola.

Olivia admires Cesario to herself, then suddenly declares her love for him out loud. She pleads with him to consider pursuing her even though she is already pursuing him. Cesario replies that he only has one heart and it has not nor ever will belong to a woman. He tells her that he will never come back to try to woo her for Orsino again, but she says he can come back for other reasons and maybe he can try to love her back. They part ways, signaling the end of the scene.

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