What are some events in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night that are improbable? 

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Most of the situations in the play are improbable--but, then again, it is a comedy and it doesn’t really have to make sense.  You are there to have a good time, right?  I think the most improbable concept is that Viola could convince everyone around her that she is a man for so long.  Piggybacking on that, I have always found it disturbing that Orsino is so willing to marry her at the end.

DUKE ORSINO

Madam, I am most apt to embrace your offer.

To VIOLA

Your master quits you; and for your service done him,
So much against the mettle of your sex,
So far beneath your soft and tender breeding,
And since you call'd me master for so long,
Here is my hand: you shall from this time be
Your master's mistress. (Act 5, Scene 1) 

It’s just odd that he would suddenly accept her as a woman and fall in love with her instantly.  I understand that he has formed a sort of relationship with her when he thought she was a young man, Cesario, but it is still strange and somewhat improbable.

The situation with Olivia is also improbable on multiple levels.  Olivia says she is not interested in anyone because she is in mourning.  Her father and brother died recently.  As happens sometimes, she falls in love despite her intentions.  “Cesario” catches her eye.  The weird thing is that when she offers Sebastian marriage because she thinks he is Cesario, he accepts.  He barely knows her!  He even ponders whether one of them might be crazy.

SEBASTIAN

For though my soul disputes well with my sense,
That this may be some error, but no madness,
Yet doth this accident and flood of fortune
So far exceed all instance, all discourse,
That I am ready to distrust mine eyes
And wrangle with my reason that persuades me
To any other trust but that I am mad
Or else the lady's mad… (Act 4, Scene 3)

It is also probably unlikely that Malvolio would fall for Maria’s trick.  Maria tricks him into believing that she is in love with him by leaving a letter that states that he should dress garishly and act foolishly. He seems like an otherwise intelligent person.  Why would Olivia fall in love with him?  On that note, Sir Toby and Maria’s marriage might be a little unusual too, since he is above her class-wise.

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Twelfth Night

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