What is your overall impression of each of these characters from "Twelfth Night": Viola, Maria, Toby, and Orsino.
Just to respond to one of these questions, Orsino, from the very first pages of the play, seems to be a character who is more in love with the feeling of being in love than with Olivia. Notice how he seems to rejoice in being in a love-sick mood, and how he never himself goes to Olivia to offer her his love, always using intermediaries. Like jsmckenna, I agree that he seems to enjoy the pursuit more than the actual "prize" - obviously knowing that Olivia has declared she will not marry because of the death of her father and brother makes her a worthy challenge for his attentions as a love-lorn suitor.
The above commentator rightly argues that Viola takes control of her destiny. But it should also be noted that she takes control of her emotions too. The way Viola resists her love for Orsino is really impressive. Furthermore she is also truthful in her love. When Olivia expresses her love for Cesario, Viola replies: “By innocence I swear, and by my youth / I have one heart, one bosom and one truth, / And that no woman has; nor never none / Shall mistress be of it, save I alone.” Thus Viola remains faithful to her love till the end of the play. And this great mixture of restraint and faithfulness in her love makes Viola’s character unique in this great Shakespearean comedy.
I think this question would be awesome for the "English Teachers" group.
I look at Orsino as a typical love-lorn Shakespeare character~one who will continue to pursue his love interest despite the shutting doors. He is not very sympathetic to Olivia's mourning, this put him in my "selfish" character column. I think he enjoys the pursuit, not unlike the high school boy who constantly wants to date the popular girl in school when all he has to offer her is his love because he has not shown her any other traits except desperation.
I adore Maria and her flirtatiousness, although her taste in men is a bit suspect. Toby isn't buying into Olivia's mourning household either and that, makes him a selfish character. But, he is a lot of fun and when this play is seen, not read, Toby is usually a bit of an Animal House frat boy. Maria's vindictivenes is a bit harsh; I believe the trick played on Malvolio is very overthetop if viewed as a reaction to his anger at the party atmosphere. I believe Shakespeare lays enough clues to hint that Malvolio was this difficult even before the death of Olivia's brother so Maria takes a stand and gives him a hard time of it.
Viola is my favorite character since she is not a weak female; she takes control of her destiny even when mourning her brother, Sebastian. I don't agree with her choice in men, Orsino being a bit of a wimp but she is the one who takes action in their impending relationship.