What does Olivia reveal about herself from her words and actions in Act IV of Twelfth night?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act IV of Twelfth Night Olivia reveals through her words that her gender role does not preclude her from asking Cesario/Sebastian to be ruled by her. Later in Scene iii, she reveals that her gender role does not restrict her from making wedding arrangements and asking Cesario/Sebastian to wed her.

In Scene 1, Olivia comes upon one whom she thinks is Cesario while he is engaged in a quarrel with Sir Toby. It is not Cesario, though. It is actually Viola's/Cesario's twin brother Sebastian. Olivia takes Sebastian for Cesario and, after breaking up the quarrel, asks Cesario/Sebastian to "be ruled" by her. This is more of a forward action than the gender stereotype would expect from an encounter between Olivia and Cesario/Sebastian.

In Scene 3, Olivia reenters the stage in the company of a priest. She has independently made wedding arrangements, brought the priest and proceeds to ask Cesario/Sebastian to accompany her and the priest to the "chantry" (chapel) to be married. This similarly is more of a directing, orchestrating role than the gender stereotype would suggest as a resolution between Cesario and Olivia.