Twelfth Night Act II, Scene 1 Summary and Analysis
by William Shakespeare

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Act II, Scene 1 Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Antonio: a sea captain, friend to Sebastian, who wishes to serve him

Sebastian: Viola’s twin brother, who survives the shipwreck and initially believes Viola has drowned

This short scene serves the purpose of letting us know that Sebastian, Viola’s twin brother, has reached the shores of Illyria. We need this information to prepare our understanding of later scenes.

Sebastian tells us a little about himself, thus informing us that he has a twin sister. He thinks that she drowned while he managed to gain safety.

He wishes to separate from Antonio and wander about the area. But shortly afterward, he contradicts himself in this intention by stating that he, specifically, wants to go to “the Count Orsino’s court.” Although Antonio offers to serve Sebastian, he cannot go immediately with him to Orsino’s court because he has “many enemies” there. Yet, we will learn that Antonio’s affection for Sebastian is strong enough to prompt him to follow after him eventually.

Notice the very straightforward and formal manner in which these men talk to one another. Since this scene serves an informative purpose, the formal dialogue is most appropriate. There is very little poetry in this scene. They are not expressing their love for a woman as Orsino was doing in the first scene. The dialogue serves up numerous indications that its purpose here is just to inform. Antonio starts the dialogue with a straightforward yes-or-no question: “Will you stay no longer?” Sebastian gives his answer. Then Antonio makes a request whose very words explicitly suggest that this scene is providing the audience with information: “Let me know of you whither you are bound.” Finally, Sebastian states background information in his next speech.

The contrast between the formal prose of this scene and the poetry of the love speeches should teach us about Shakespeare’s use of language. Poetry expresses feeling, often strong feeling, so using it to reveal the depth of one’s love is a fine...

(The entire section is 512 words.)