Twelfth Night Act III, Scene 3 Summary and Analysis
by William Shakespeare

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Act III, Scene 3 Summary and Analysis

This short scene lets us know that Sebastian and Antonio are making their way into the action; they have not been left out. Antonio explains to a grateful Sebastian that both love and concern for his safety urged him to catch up to the youth. Antonio knows the area; Sebastian does not.

Sebastian desires to do some sightseeing in town, to see the “memorials and the things of fame,” but Antonio has to back out. Antonio is wanted by Orsino’s court for his part in a previous incident at sea. Sebastian reckons that perhaps he has murdered. Not so; Antonio says he is only guilty of piracy.

Antonio gives his money to Sebastian in case he wishes to purchase something, while Antonio lays low. He also recommends an inn where they can meet (the Elephant). They agree to find each other there.

This scene does advance the plot even though there is no mention of either character’s being in love. Sebastian is Viola’s twin brother. As far as the love theme is concerned, we can predict—since a theme should be coherently worked out—that just as Viola has a place in the love plot, so too will Sebastian. He is a missing link. Olivia, Orsino, and Cesario expressing love make an uneven number. One more is needed to make two couples. These two couples, as they will eventually turn out to be, constitute two of the three love knots that are realized by the end of the play. Malvolio’s love comes to naught, however, and Sir Andrew never gets Olivia.

We have had plenty of exposure to Olivia, Orsino, and Cesario’s brand of loving and being loved in the play. So, Shakespeare need not belabor the role that Cesario has represented as the practical, commonsense-oriented person in the relationship. It’s the Cesarios that keep the relationship going from day to day. The family tie that exists between Viola and Sebastian also implies a thematic parallel between the two characters. Shakespeare’s economy had no need to dramatize Sebastian’s practicality.

Antonio is familiar with the Duke and his Illyria. He, unfortunately, has had a run-in with the Duke’s men in the past, so he feels it necessary to hide his presence. Shakespeare keeps him involved in the plot in such a way that will call attention to the illusion created by Viola’s disguise. Later on, Antonio will take Cesario for Sebastian.