Twelfth Night Character and Theme Quotes
by William Shakespeare

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Essential Quotes by Character: Viola

Essential Passage 1: Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 55-64

I prithee, and I'll pay thee bounteously,
Conceal me what I am, and be my aid
For such disguise as haply shall become
The form of my intent. I'll serve this duke:
Thou shalt present me as an eunuch to him:
It may be worth thy pains; for I can sing
And speak to him in many sorts of music
That will allow me very worth his service.
What else may hap to time I will commit;
Only shape thou silence to my wit.


Viola, a gentlewoman of Messaline, has been shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria, along with the ship’s captain. Having a twin brother on the ship, Viola believes him drowned. On inquiring from the captain where they are, she learns that Illyria is the captain’s birthplace, and they are near the home of Count Orsino, a duke who is currently a bachelor. Viola had heard her father speak of Orsino and is curious about the bachelorhood of so rich and noble a man. The captain tells her of Orsino’s love for Olivia, a lady of the region. However, because Olivia is in mourning for her father and brother, she will accept no suitors. Viola is intrigued by this tale and decides that she would like to aid the duke’s suit. At first she proposes to present herself as a lady-in-waiting to Olivia, but the captain informs her that Olivia is not even accepting visitors. Viola then decides to disguise herself as a male eunuch (i.e., person surgically altered prior to the onset of puberty so as to prevent the development of secondary sex characteristics such as a beard) to Count Orsino as a servant. Her intent is to act as a matchmaker between Orsino and Olivia because she desires to see true love fulfilled.

Essential Passage 2: Act 1, Scene 4, Lines 22-44

O, then unfold the passion of my love,
Surprise her with discourse of my dear faith:
It shall become thee well to act my woes;
She will attend it better in thy youth
Than in a nuncio's of more grave aspect.

I think not so, my lord.

Dear lad, believe it;
For they shall yet belie thy happy years,
That say thou art a man: Diana's lip
Is not more smooth and rubious; thy small pipe
Is as the maiden's organ, shrill and sound,
And all is semblative a woman's part.
I know thy constellation is right apt
For this affair. Some four or five attend him:
All, if you will; for I myself am best
When least in company. Prosper well in this
And thou shalt live as freely as thy lord,
To call his fortunes thine.

I'll do my best
To woo your lady. [Aside] Yet, a barful strife!
Whoe'er I woo, myself would be his wife.


Viola has presented herself to Count Orsino as a eunuch named Cesario. Within a matter of days, she has earned his trust to the point where he is comfortable sending Viola to Olivia to persuade her to accept his suit. Orsino believes that Olivia will be more accepting of “Cesario” than she will of himself. Although Viola is doubtful, Orsino points out that her feminine appearance will be less off-putting than his own. He observes that Viola’s features are closer to a woman’s than a man’s. Her mouth is softer, her voice more tender, her very appearance is womanly (this is a reference to his belief that “Cesario” is a eunuch and thus has retained more boyish qualities). Orsino sends Viola off with several attendants and bids them leave, as he wants to be alone. Viola promises that she will do her best to present him as a fitting suitor to Olivia, but in an aside she reveals that she is now in love with Orsino and would sooner woo him for herself.

Essential Passage 3: Act 5, Scene 1, Lines 258-284

If nothing lets to make us happy both
But this my masculine usurp'd attire,
Do not embrace me till each circumstance
Of place, time, fortune, do cohere and jump
That I am Viola: which to confirm,
I'll bring you to a captain in this town,
Where lie my maiden weeds; by whose gentle help
I was preserved to serve this noble Count;
All the occurrence of my fortune since
Hath been between this lady and this lord.

[To Olivia]

(The entire section is 2,934 words.)