Twelfth Night Act 4: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby

Kaitlin has a BA in political science and experience teaching.

Explore Act Four from William Shakespeare's comedic play, Twelfth Night. The act includes Sebastian's arrival at Olivia's house and their meeting, as well as the continuation of Maria, Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Feste the clown's trick on Malvolio.

Who Is That Again?

Have you ever been accused of being someone you aren't? Not saying that you are fake, or that you lie about who you really are, but someone says you said something that you didn't, or someone remembers seeing you somewhere that you weren't? Maybe your mom grounds you for going to the movies without asking, simply because one of her friends told her they saw you there. It might have been your older brother, who looks a lot like you, but he isn't talking, and you are the one getting blamed. Or maybe your friend is mad at you because they saw you at the football game on Friday night, and you didn't even say hi! Come to think of it, your brother was at that game, too! Talk about a case of mistaken identity! This is exactly what happened to Sebastian, a character in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, once he arrived at Duke Orsino's court and was brought to Olivia's house. Everyone thinks he is Cesario, who is actually his twin sister, Viola, in disguise.


At the beginning of Act Four, Feste finds Sebastian and mistakes him for Cesario/Viola. He drags him to Olivia's house, despite Sebastian protesting that he doesn't know Feste. Once they arrive, Sir Andrew and Sir Toby mistake Sebastian for Cesario as well. This is especially confusing for Sir Andrew, since Cesario/Viola just ran off looking for a clue of Sebastian in the last act. Sir Andrew attacks Sebastian, and promptly gets a beat down for his efforts. Sir Toby jumps in to help, but Olivia breaks up the fight and invites Sebastian in, mistaking him for Cesario again. Despite the fact that Sebastian has no idea what is going on, he heads into Olivia's house.

The joke on Malvolio continues to play on, with Maria, Feste, Sir Toby, and Sir Andrew locking Malvolio in a dark room and stating that he is insane. At Maria's urging, Feste assumes the identity of a priest and speaks with Malvolio, altering his voice so that Malvolio doesn't know who he is. Malvolio tells the supposed priest that he is locked in this dark room, and the 'priest' tells him that the room is sunny and light and that he must be insane. Sir Toby starts to realize that the joke has gone on long enough, and the group allows Malvolio to write a letter to Olivia asking to be released.

While this is happening, Sebastian is being given gifts by Olivia and walking around the house with her. He vaguely remembers that he hasn't seen Antonio for a while, but is distracted by Olivia. She suggests that they get married since she has a priest in the house ready to go. Despite the fact that Sebastian had never met her until that day, he agrees.

Olivia, Sebastian, and the Priest
Olivia, Sebastian, and the Priest

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