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Extended Character Analysis

Lady Olivia is an upper-class, wealthy, and beautiful countess in Illyria. Olivia is judgmental and overindulgent. Much like Duke Orsino, Olivia is also quick to fall in love and makes rash decisions. She also claims to be in a seven-year, loveless period of mourning for her recently deceased brother. However, Lady Olivia’s mourning period appears to exist as an excuse to refuse Orsino’s advances.

Olivia’s Hypocrisy

Lady Olivia claims at the beginning of Twelfth Night to be mourning her brother’s death. She says she will mourn for seven years and will refuse to fall in love during that time. Lady Olivia shows that she is hypocritical in that she uses her brother’s mourning period to avoid Orsino’s romantic advances but ignores her promise to mourn once she falls in love with Cesario. When she meets Cesario—Viola in disguise—she throws her vow away and sends a ring after Cesario to secretly show her affections. Lady Olivia realizes the irrationality of her love for Cesario but finds that she cannot help it. In following with the theme of revelry in love, Olivia chooses to pine after Cesario despite her original intentions.

Olivia’s Love

Olivia’s abrupt change of heart and mind shows a distinct lack of rationality. She tries to woo Cesario but is unsuccessful given that Cesario is Viola in disguise. Olivia claims that she cannot love Orsino, despite his wealth, stature, and genuine personality. Olivia’s love for Cesario highlights the illogical side of love. Orsino is the more logical, sensible decision, but Olivia immediately feels love for a new young man whom she does not know.

Olivia goes so far in her love-induced blindness as to marry Sebastian, Viola’s twin brother. Olivia believes that Sebastian is Cesario and is pleasantly surprised when she notices his interest in her. Beforehand, Cesario (Viola) had always politely rejected her advances. Olivia is so excited to be able to be betrothed to Cesario that she plans the ceremony and completes the betrothal to Sebastian in a single day. However, having betrothed Sebastian instead of Cesario, Olivia soon finds herself in the center of duplicity and chaos over love and misattributed identity.

When Olivia meets Viola, who is still disguised as Cesario, she calls Cesario “husband.” This results in confusion and arguing until Sebastian arrives and clears the confusion. Olivia’s willingness to betroth Sebastian (whom she believed was Cesario) with such speed shows that her love was shallow and passionate instead of steady and thoughtfully considered. Once Olivia learns that Sebastian isn’t Cesario, however, she is surprised but not entirely disappointed. Like Orsino, Olivia’s love for Cesario was more motivated by the journey of finding love as opposed to an actual grounded affection for Cesario’s personality.

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