How does Viola from Shakespeare's Twefth Night show herself to be admirable person who thinks of others, not simply of herself?

Expert Answers
vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In William Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night, Viola shows herself to be a generous, sympathetic,  and unselfish person in a number of ways, including the following:

  • Viola’s first concern, at the beginning of Act 1, scene 2, is for the health and safety of her brother.
  • Later in Act 1, scene 2, Viola expresses her admiration for the captain’s virtue (thereby suggesting her own virtuous values) and promises to reward him if he can help her:

I will believe thou hast a mind that suits 
With this thy fair and outward character. 
I prithee, and I'll pay thee bounteously, 
Conceal me what I am, and be my aid 
For such disguise as haply shall become 
The form of my intent.

  • At the end of Act 1, scene 4, Viola expresses her willingness to help Orsino woo Olivia, even though Viola herself is now in love with Orsino:

I'll do my best 
To woo your lady: 
yet, a barful strife! 
Whoe'er I woo, myself would be his wife.

  • At one point in Act 2, scene 2, Viola describes the romantic complications that have ensued since she arrived at Ilyria. She expresses concern not only for herself but for Olivia and Orsino, especially the former:

. . . my master [i.e., Orsino]loves her [i.e., Olivia] dearly; 
And I, poor monster, fond as much on him; 
And she, mistaken, seems to dote on me. 
What will become of this? As I am man, 
My state is desperate for my master's love; 
As I am woman,—now alas the day!— 
What thriftless sighs shall poor Olivia breathe!
O time! thou must untangle this, not I; 
It is too hard a knot for me to untie!  [italics added for emphasis]


Read the study guide:
Twelfth Night

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question