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

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Act V, Scene 1 Summary and Analysis

This scene forms a conglomeration of previous elements in the play. We are before Olivia’s house when it opens with Fabian and the Clown. Fabian is asking Feste to show him Malvolio’s letter to Olivia, which he doesn’t want to show him.

After this brief exchange, the Duke, Cesario, Curio, and other lords are on the scene. After inquiring of Feste and Fabian if they are connected to Olivia, the Duke recognizes one of them as the Clown. Upon being asked how he is, the Clown starts in with his wordplay. He answers ironically that, as far as his foes are concerned, he is better, and as far as his friends are concerned, he is worse. That makes no sense to the Duke, so he requests an explanation. The Clown’s explanation holds that friends deceive, while enemies tell the cold truth. Once explained, the Duke likes the idea and tips him. The Clown wants more and gets another coin from the Duke. Before leaving to summon Olivia, the Clown requests yet another coin from the Duke.

Antonio and the officers then enter. Cesario recognizes Antonio as the man who stepped in on his fight with Sir Andrew. The Duke also recognizes Antonio from the time when he did courageous battle with one of his ships. An officer relates that he arrested Antonio while fighting in the street. Cesario hastens to his defense mentioning his help, though his speech quite perplexed him.

Antonio recounts how he saved Sebastian, inadvertently referring to Cesario, and offered his love and service to him. He exposed himself to danger for Sebastian’s sake. Yet, Sebastian denied him when he intervened in the fight. Sebastian held back his purse, too.

Cesario wonders how that could be possible. He has been under the Duke’s service since arriving in Illyria.

In walks Olivia asking the Duke how she can be of service to him. She takes Cesario for Sebastian. Olivia’s speech thus baffles Cesario. Olivia repeats her rejection of the Duke. The Duke expresses his disappointment and adds a fierce note for emphasis. He retaliates by spiriting Cesario away, out of Olivia’s sight. Cesario, supportive of the Duke, reveals his love for him.

Olivia calls for the priest to remind Cesario that they are married. She thinks that Cesario is afraid to admit the truth. The priest comes to substantiate the marital bond that exists between them (her and Sebastian). This proof convinces the Duke, who becomes angry with Cesario.

Sir Andrew, entering injured, calls for a doctor to attend him and Sir Toby. Sir Andrew lays the blame for this violence on Cesario. Cesario, of course, denies the charge. Sir Andrew was set on him by Sir Toby. Sir Toby enters limping and requests a doctor. Olivia orders him to bed.

Sebastian enters with an apology for the injuries he has produced. He was justified inasmuch as he acted in self-defense. The Duke notices the resemblance between him and Cesario, considering it an optical illusion. Sebastian is glad to see Antonio.

For the first time in the play, Sebastian speaks to Cesario. Cesario offers clear proof that he and Sebastian are related. The time is not right for Cesario to unmask, but he promises to bring Sebastian to where his woman’s clothes are hidden.

Sebastian characterizes Olivia’s mistake as natural since she was attracted to Cesario’s masculine exterior.

Seeing a chance for his own happiness, the Duke shows interest in Cesario. Cesario accepts because she did, in fact, fall in love with him. The Duke wishes to see the Viola beneath the Cesario.

Olivia then requests to see Malvolio, at which point the Clown enters with his letter. Feste continues to ascribe madness to Malvolio. Irked by his unusual manner of reading the letter, Olivia asks Fabian to read it. The letter blames Olivia for the cruel joke that’s been played on him. Though her love letter led him astray, he still kept his wits about him. He intends to broadcast the wrong she’s done him. Olivia requests to see him.

The Duke proposes to Viola.

Malvolio enters chastising Olivia. She...

(The entire section is 1,433 words.)