Compare and contrast the characters of Viola and Olivia in Twelfth Night.

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Both Olivia and Viola are women of high social status who have recently lost (or believe they have lost) their brothers. Though they are similar in background, their responses to the deaths of their loved ones are quite different. While Olivia's grief has forced her to close up the doors of her home and admit no suitors, Viola's grief and sudden change in circumstances force her to disguise herself as a man and go into service for Count Orsino, pretending to be both a different gender and a different class.

Another similarity between the women is that both Olivia and Viola's mourning periods are interrupted by an unexpected infatuation. Olivia is snapped out of mourning by the onset of her love for Cesario, while Viola's grief is given almost no stage time before she begins pining for Orsino.

Finally, though Olivia initially holds a cynical view of love, she is almost immediately swayed by Viola/Cesario's overtures of love, proving that both women are romantics at heart.

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Both Viola and Olivia...

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