Viola in Twelfth Night: Character Traits & Analysis

Viola in Twelfth Night: Character Traits & Analysis
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  • 0:00 Dude Looks Like a Lady
  • 1:06 Viola's Character Traits
  • 2:19 Analysis
  • 3:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
This lesson discusses one of the main characters of William Shakespeare's ''Twelfth Night,'' Viola. She spends a great deal of time during the play masquerading as a page named Cesario. Viola falls in love with Duke Orsino while doing so. Read the lesson, and then test yourself with a quiz!

Dude Looks Like A Lady

Think about your crush for a second. Wouldn't it be great if they told you everything that was on their mind? If you were privy to all their thoughts, all their secrets, you could figure out how to make them love you back, right? Now imagine that your crush is telling you how much they love another person. To make it even weirder, that person has a crush on you! That's what is happening to Viola, one of the main characters in William Shakespeare's comedy Twelfth Night. Forced to masquerade as a man named Cesario for most of the play, Viola falls in love with Duke Orsino, who makes her his page. Orsino then sends Viola off to his love, Lady Olivia, to convince her to accept him as a suitor. Instead, Olivia falls in love with Cesario/Viola, who is secretly pining after Orsino. At the end of the play, Viola finally gets to reveal her true self to Orsino, who realizes that he loves her too. Before that, Viola gets in touch with her masculine side to put it lightly.

Viola's Character Traits

Viola is first introduced to the audience as a female as well as the protagonist, or main character in the play. She has been shipwrecked and is understandably sad due to the supposed loss of her brother Sebastian. She immediately realizes that she must provide a living for herself and masquerades as a man, Cesario, so that she can work in Duke Orsino's household. Viola makes herself useful to Orsino and is soon made his page. Providing him with good advice, she becomes his confidant. Despite her own developing feelings for him, Viola remains loyal to Orsino's interests and attempts to fulfill her duties as his attendant.

Though Viola was born a noblewoman, her willingness to work proves she doesn't depend on anyone to take care of her. She displays initiative and innovation in her unorthodox way of seeking employment! Viola exhibits genuine excitement after learning her brother Sebastian could be alive, following Antonio's arrest. Viola's emotional response to this news reveals her strong love for her brother. At the end of the play, when she finally expresses her feelings for Orsino, he understands her love and loyalty to him all along.

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