The play centers on the characters Orsino, Duke of Illyria, and the woman he believes he is in love with, Olivia, who is “a rich countess.” After a shipwreck, the twins Sebastian and Viola are separated, and Viola disguises herself as a boy and becomes Orsino's servant, calling herself Cesario. Orsino sends Viola to Olivia to tell of his love, but when Olivia meets Viola, she “falls in love with him,” thinking Viola is indeed a boy. During the course of the play, Viola also falls in love—with her new master, Orsino. Meanwhile, the servants and other characters provide further comedy of misunderstandings, disguises, and practical jokes, such as when Maria and Sir Toby send a false letter from Oliva to Malvolio, declaring that she is in love with him, and requesting that he wear some rather unusual clothing for her sake. Illyria, in which the play takes places, is a fantastical world where time and sense seem not to exist.
This report prepared by Megan E. Davis
The languid, fatuous Duke Orsino ("If music be the food of love, play on...") desires the countess Olivia, who is busy mourning her brother's recent death. Viola, another of Shakespeare's plucky heroines, has been shipwrecked in this land (Illyria, somewhere on the Adriatic coast -- maybe where Yugoslavia used to be), and believes she has lost her beloved brother Sebastian in the wreck. Disguising herself as a young man and renaming herself "Cesario," she enters the service of Orsino, who sends Viola to woo the countess on his behalf. Olivia becomes entranced with "Cesario," Viola wants Orsino, and ... well, all sorts of topsy-turvy relationships and events ensue. There is plenty of comic folderol among Olivia's servants and henchmen, Malvolio, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Sir Toby Belch.
This report prepared by David Loftus