Twelfth Night Act I, Scene 4 Summary and Analysis
by William Shakespeare

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Act I, Scene 4 Summary and Analysis

We find Viola (now named “Cesario”) on her fourth day in the Duke’s palace, her disguise having gained her the access she wished. Valentine is amazed, in fact, at how much favor she has already gained with the Duke.

The Duke assigns Cesario the task of pursuing Olivia for him. He urges him to be aggressive: “Be clamorous and leap all civil bounds.” The Duke is confident that Cesario can effectively persuade Olivia to respond to his true passion. Cesario is doubtful.

Part of the Duke’s confidence owes to his intuition of Cesario’s real feminine qualities. He implies, in other words, that she can play the womanly matchmaker role well. He promises him a reward if he is successful in his undertaking.

Viola’s last lines allude to another plot strand in the play, her love for the Duke, which she cannot reveal because of her disguise.

It is appropriate to consider a definition of the type of play (or “genre”) that Twelfth Night is. Twelfth
Night belongs to a species of drama known as “comedy.” We expect the course of action in a comedy to be different from that in a tragedy. As M.H. Abrams puts it in A Glossary of Literary Terms:

Romantic comedy, as developed by Shakespeare and some of his Elizabethan contemporaries, is concerned with a love affair that involves a beautiful and idealized heroine (sometimes disguised as a man); the course of this love does not run smooth, but overcomes all difficulties to end in a happy union.

Twelfth Night contains both of these elements and a lot more. The definition enlightens us about the ending; it will be a happy one. In comedy, love conquers all. Northrop Frye makes it clear that comedy...

(The entire section is 440 words.)