Twelfth Night

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Olivia Character Analysis

A beautiful noblewoman in Illyria. At the beginning of the play, she has rejected both Orsino and her ridiculous suitor, Sir Andrew Aguecheek. In mourning for her recently deceased brother, she has vowed not to receive any man, or to go outside, for seven years. However, when she meets Cesario (Viola in her male costume) she falls in love and forgets these oaths. Olivia's mourning for her brother therefore resembles Orsino's love-melancholy: it seems more like a performance than a real, deeply felt emotion. Like Orsino, she seems to enjoy indulging in misery, and also has no problem shifting the object of love from one person to the next.

Olivia Quotes in Twelfth Night

The Twelfth Night quotes below are all either spoken by Olivia or refer to Olivia. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Desire and Love Theme Icon
).
Act 1, scene 5 Quotes
Lady, you are the cruell'st she alive
If you will lead these graces to the grave
And leave the world no copy. (224-226)
Related Characters: Viola (Cesario) (speaker), Olivia
Make me a willow cabin at your gate
And call upon my soul within the house;
Write loyal cantons of contemned love
And sing them loud even in the dead of night;
Halloo your name to the reverberate hills
And make the babbling gossip of the air
Cry out 'Olivia!' O, You should not rest
Between the elements of air and earth
But you should pity me. (251-259)
Related Characters: Viola (Cesario) (speaker), Orsino, Olivia
Act 2, scene 5 Quotes
Be not afraid of greatness: Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em. (130)
Related Characters: Olivia (speaker), Malvolio (speaker)
Act 3, scene 1 Quotes
O world! how apt the poor are to be proud. (124)
Related Characters: Olivia (speaker)
Love sought is good, but given unsought is better. (153)
Related Characters: Olivia (speaker)
Act 3, scene 4 Quotes
Why, this is very midsummer madness. (53)
Related Characters: Olivia (speaker), Malvolio
Act 5, scene 1 Quotes
Why have you suffered me to be imprisoned,
Kept in a dark house, visited by the priest,
And made the most notorious geck and gull
That e'er invention played on? Tell me why. (331-334)
Related Characters: Malvolio (speaker), Olivia
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Olivia Character Timeline in Twelfth Night

The timeline below shows where the character Olivia appears in Twelfth Night. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, scene 1
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
...he will he come hunt "hart" (male deer). Orsino jokes that, since he first saw Olivia, he himself has been like a hart, hunted by his own desires. (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Valentine, another attendant, returns from Olivia's palace, where Orsino has sent him. He reports that Olivia is deep in mourning for... (full context)
Act 1, scene 2
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
...governed by a Duke Orsino, a bachelor who is in love with a noblewoman named Olivia. Olivia, herself the orphaned daughter of a count, who out of "dear love" (1.2.39) for... (full context)
Act 1, scene 3
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
At Olivia's palace, Olivia's crass uncle, Sir Toby Belch, has just returned from a night of drinking.... (full context)
Act 1, scene 4
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Cesario departs for Olivia's house with four or five attendants. But, privately, Viola remarks to herself that she is... (full context)
Act 1, scene 5
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
In Olivia's house, Maria is chiding Feste, the clown, for a recent unexplained absence. Feste responds by... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Olivia enters, wearing mourning clothes and attended by her steward, Malvolio. Olivia first instructs her attendants... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Maria returns to announce that a young man at the gate wishes to speak with Olivia. Olivia asks if he has been sent by Orsino. Maria doesn't know. Olivia sends Malvolio... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Malvolio returns and informs Olivia that the young man outside will not leave. Olivia asks what he is like. Malvolio... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Cesario enters and recites ornate poetry about Olivia's "unmatchable beauty" (1.5.158). Olivia instructs him to get to the point. Cesario protests that he... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Cutting Cesario off, Olivia asks what his own background is. Cesario replies that he is a gentleman by birth,... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Once she is alone, Olivia admits to herself that she is extremely attracted to Cesario. She lists his beautiful features—"Thy... (full context)
Act 2, scene 2
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Malvolio catches up with Cesario. He gives Cesario the ring from Olivia and explains that Olivia doesn't want it and has nothing more to say to the... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Alone, Viola picks up the ring and realizes that Olivia has fallen in love with "Cesario," and that by taking on her disguise she has... (full context)
Act 2, scene 3
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
...Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek are up late, eating and drinking in a room in Olivia's house. Feste soon joins them, and they are all raucously singing together, when Maria shows... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
...Maria that if she respected her mistress, she would reprimand these lowlifes. Threatening to tell Olivia everything, he storms off. Maria is annoyed at Malvolio, but begs Sir Toby and Sir... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
...has a great idea for a prank on Malvolio. She boasts that she can imitate Olivia's handwriting perfectly, and will drop in Malvolio's way a love letter that Malvolio, in his... (full context)
Act 2, scene 4
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
...that, if he is ever in love, he must remember and imitate Orsino's passion for Olivia. Noticing that Cesario seems moved by the music, Orsino then asks whether he is not... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Orsino instructs Cesario to go woo Olivia once again on his behalf. Cesario suggests that Orsino give up. What if a woman... (full context)
Act 2, scene 5
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
As Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Fabian, one of Olivia's attendants, wait in Olivia's garden, Maria runs in and instructs them all to conceal themselves... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Malvolio enters, talking to himself. As it happens, he already believes that Olivia fancies him. Hiding in the tree, Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Fabian try to suppress... (full context)
Act 3, scene 1
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Cesario arrives at Olivia's palace (following Orsino's instructions in 2.4). Outside he finds Feste, who clowns a bit and... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
When they are alone, Cesario says that he is Olivia's servant: he is Orsino's servant and Orsino belongs to Olivia. So, by extension, he does... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Cesario responds that he pities Olivia but cannot love her—because, as he tells her, "I am not what I am" (3.1.138).... (full context)
Act 3, scene 2
Desire and Love Theme Icon
In another room of Olivia's house, Sir Andrew tells Sir Toby that he has finally decided to give up and... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
...instructed in Maria's letter, and making himself entirely ridiculous in the process. Maria comments that Olivia will probably hit Malvolio for his idiotic behavior and that, when she does, Malvolio will... (full context)
Act 3, scene 4
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
In her garden, Olivia consults with Maria on how best to woo Cesario, who has agreed to come back... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Malvolio enters wearing yellow cross-gartered stockings, smiling idiotically. Olivia scolds him for this behavior. However, he continues grinning and alluding to the letter which... (full context)
Madness Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
...about Malvolio. Maria implies to Malvolio that he is acting crazily and reminds him that Olivia wanted him to remain in Sir Toby's care. Quickly losing patience, Malvolio dismisses the others... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
...to deliver it. When they learn from Maria that Cesario is at that moment visiting Olivia and is about to depart, Sir Toby convinces Sir Andrew to go lie in wait... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Olivia enters with Cesario, apologizing for having said too much: she is so in love, she... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Once Olivia has gone, Sir Toby and Fabian approach Cesario. Using all sorts of double entendre's about... (full context)
Act 4, scene 1
Madness Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Near Olivia's house, Feste runs into Sebastian, whom he mistakes for Cesario. Feste asks Sebastian to return... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Olivia rushes in, ordering Sir Toby to stop. Olivia sends Toby away, while begging "Cesario" (in... (full context)
Act 4, scene 2
Madness Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Back at Olivia's house, Maria and Toby have locked Malvolio in a dark chamber to cure his "madness."... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
...in Maria that they must find a way out of this prank to avoid irritating Olivia any further. The two sneak off to Sir Toby's bedroom. (full context)
Madness Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
...him a candle, pen, ink, and paper, so that he can write a letter asking Olivia for help. Feste agrees to deliver the letter, but first dallies for a while, teasing... (full context)
Act 4, scene 3
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
In another room in Olivia's palace, Sebastian is wandering around, trying to make sense of what has happened. Sebastian wishes... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Sebastian's thoughts are interrupted when Olivia enters with a priest. She begs Sebastian to agree to marry her secretly at once.... (full context)
Act 5, scene 1
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
In front of Olivia's house, Feste holds the letter that Malvolio has written begging for Olivia's help. As Fabian... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Olivia demands to know where Cesario has been. Has he broken his marriage promises to her... (full context)
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
...upon the group. Sir Toby, also bleeding, enters with Feste and joins in accusing Cesario. Olivia sends them away to have their injuries tended and demands to know who is actually... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
At this moment, Sebastian rushes in, apologizing to Olivia, begging her pardon for having hurt her kinsman. Everyone is astonished. Orsino exclaims that Sebastian... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Sebastian turns to Olivia to explain: all that time, she wanted to marry a woman. Orsino reassures Olivia, telling... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Olivia instantly agrees to take care of this minor detail—which reminds her that, distracted by her... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Waiting for them to return, Olivia asks Orsino to think of her as a sister and offers to host a wedding... (full context)
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Malvolio enters with Fabian. Fuming, he presents Olivia with Maria's trick letter. After a quick examination, Olivia replies that the handwriting is Maria's,... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Orsino says that when the Captain has given his account, he and Viola and Olivia and Sebastian will be properly married. Aside, he adds that as long as Viola is... (full context)