Twelfth Night

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Viola (Cesario) Character Analysis

The protagonist of Twelfth Night. An aristocratic woman, she is tossed up on the coast of Illyria by a shipwreck at the beginning of the play and disguises herself as the pageboy, Cesario, to make her way. Throughout the play, Viola exhibits strength of character, quick wit, and resourcefulness. Although her disguise puts her in an impossible position, she maintains self-control and a quiet dignity that contrast with the over-the-top emotional performances of love and mourning by the other main characters, Orsino and Olivia. While those two characters seem almost to be play-acting, Viola truly feels pain when she believes that her brother Sebastian died in the shipwreck and when her love for Orsino seems impossible.

Viola (Cesario) Quotes in Twelfth Night

The Twelfth Night quotes below are all either spoken by Viola (Cesario) or refer to Viola (Cesario). 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 4 Quotes
Thy small pipe
Is as the maiden's organ, shrill and sound,
And all is semblative a woman's part. (32-34)
Related Characters: Orsino (speaker), Viola (Cesario)
Act 1, scene 5 Quotes
He is very well-favored and he speaks very shrewishly; one would think his mother's milk were scarce out of him. (149-151)
Related Characters: Malvolio (speaker), Viola (Cesario)
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 4 Quotes
Let still the woman take
An elder than herself: so wears she to him,
So sways she level in her husband's heart:
For, boy, however we do praise ourselves,
Our fancies are more giddy and unfirm,
More longing, wavering, sooner lost and worn,
Than women's are. (28-34)
Related Characters: Orsino (speaker), Viola (Cesario)
Viola: My father had a daughter loved a man,
As it might be, perhaps, were I a woman,
I should your lordship.
Orsino: And what's her history?
Viola: A blank, my lord. She never told her love,
But let concealment, like a worm i' the bud,
Feed on her damask cheek: she pined in thought,
And with a green and yellow melancholy
She sat like patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed? (105-114)
Related Characters: Viola (Cesario) (speaker), Orsino (speaker)
I am all the daughters of my father's house
And all the brothers too. (119-120)
Related Characters: Viola (Cesario) (speaker)
Act 3, scene 1 Quotes
This fellow's wise enough to play the fool,
And to do that well craves a kind of wit. (57-58)
Related Characters: Viola (Cesario) (speaker), Feste
Act 5, scene 1 Quotes
Give me thy hand
And let me see thee in thy woman's weeds. (264-5)
Related Characters: Orsino (speaker), Viola (Cesario)
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Viola (Cesario) Character Timeline in Twelfth Night

The timeline below shows where the character Viola (Cesario) appears in Twelfth Night. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, scene 2
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Somewhere on the coast, Viola, a young noblewoman, a Captain, and several sailors, have just washed ashore from a shipwreck.... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
The Captain, who was born in Illyria, explains to Viola that Illyria is governed by a Duke Orsino, a bachelor who is in love with... (full context)
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Intrigued, Viola wonders whether she could temporarily conceal her aristocratic identity and go work for Olivia. The... (full context)
Act 1, scene 4
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
At Orsino's palace, Viola, now disguised as the page boy Cesario, chats with Valentine. Valentine tells Cesario that if... (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 enters and asks to speak with Cesario privately. Orsino then tells Cesario he has Orsino's full confidence, and tells Cesario to go... (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 departs for Olivia's house with four or five attendants. But, privately, Viola remarks to herself... (full context)
Act 1, scene 5
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
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Cesario enters and recites ornate poetry about Olivia's "unmatchable beauty" (1.5.158). Olivia instructs him to get... (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 says it would be cruel for Olivia to go through life without producing an heir... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
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Cutting Cesario off, Olivia asks what his own background is. Cesario replies that he is a gentleman... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
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Once she is alone, Olivia admits to herself that she is extremely attracted to Cesario. She lists his beautiful features—"Thy tongue, thy face, thy limbs" (1.5.269) —and describes them as... (full context)
Act 2, scene 2
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
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Malvolio catches up with Cesario. He gives Cesario the ring from Olivia and explains that Olivia doesn't want it and... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
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Gender and Sexual Identity Theme Icon
Alone, Viola picks up the ring and realizes that Olivia has fallen in love with "Cesario," and... (full context)
Act 2, scene 3
Desire and Love Theme Icon
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...but begs Sir Toby and Sir Andrew to quiet down because ever since Olivia saw Cesario earlier that day, she has been badly distressed. (full context)
Act 2, scene 4
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
The next day, Orsino lounges in his palace as usual, attended by Cesario, Curio, and other servants and musicians. Orsino sends for Feste, to sing. While Curio looks... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
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Orsino tells Cesario that, if he is ever in love, he must remember and imitate Orsino's passion for... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
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Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
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...Feste prays for the "melancholy god" to protect the Duke (2.4.72). Orsino dismisses everyone but Cesario. (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Melancholy Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
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Orsino instructs Cesario to go woo Olivia once again on his behalf. Cesario suggests that Orsino give up.... (full context)
Act 3, scene 1
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Cesario arrives at Olivia's palace (following Orsino's instructions in 2.4). Outside he finds Feste, who clowns... (full context)
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When they are alone, Cesario says that he is Olivia's servant: he is Orsino's servant and Orsino belongs to Olivia.... (full context)
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Cesario responds that he pities Olivia but cannot love her—because, as he tells her, "I am... (full context)
Act 3, scene 2
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...he has finally decided to give up and leave because he saw Olivia flirting with Cesario in the orchard. Sir Toby assures Sir Andrew that Olivia was only trying to test... (full context)
Act 3, scene 4
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In her garden, Olivia consults with Maria on how best to woo Cesario, who has agreed to come back yet again. She asks Maria to bring Malvolio to... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
...Olivia concludes that Malvolio has fallen into "midsummer madness" (3.4.52). A servant enters, reporting that Cesario has returned. Olivia asks Maria to get Sir Toby to look after Malvolio. Then she... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
Sir Andrew enters, holding the letter he has written to challenge Cesario to a duel. Sir Toby reads it, declares that it's sure to provoke Cesario, and... (full context)
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Olivia enters with Cesario, apologizing for having said too much: she is so in love, she cannot help herself.... (full context)
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Once Olivia has gone, Sir Toby and Fabian approach Cesario. Using all sorts of double entendre's about swords and sheathes, Sir Toby warns Cesario that... (full context)
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Cesario and Sir Andrew approach each other and draw swords, terrified. At this instant, Antonio enters.... (full context)
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Suddenly, several officers appear. Sir Andrew and Cesario, overjoyed to stop fighting, put away their swords. The officers arrest Antonio, who asks Cesario—whom... (full context)
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...sea. He shouts that "Sebastian" should be ashamed of himself. The officers drag Antonio off. Viola, meanwhile, is filled with sudden hope that her brother is still alive. She rushes off... (full context)
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Once everyone has left, Sir Andrew vows that he will pursue and defeat Cesario. He runs off, with Sir Toby and Fabian following. (full context)
Act 4, scene 1
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Near Olivia's house, Feste runs into Sebastian, whom he mistakes for Cesario. Feste asks Sebastian to return and speak with Olivia. Confused, Sebastian offers Feste some coins... (full context)
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Olivia rushes in, ordering Sir Toby to stop. Olivia sends Toby away, while begging "Cesario" (in fact, Sebastian) not to be offended. Once Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Fabian have... (full context)
Act 5, scene 1
Class, Masters, and Servants Theme Icon
...help. As Fabian tries to get Feste to let him read it, Orsino arrives with Cesario and several others. After exchanging some casual banter with Feste, Orsino sends the clown to... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
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While Orsino waits, the officers barge in with Antonio. Cesario defends Antonio—noting that Antonio saved him from Sir Toby and Sir Andrew—but concedes that he... (full context)
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Olivia demands to know where Cesario has been. Has he broken his marriage promises to her already? Cesario is confused. Orsino,... (full context)
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As Orsino is leaving, Sir Andrew enters, bleeding and calling for a surgeon. He accuses Cesario of injuring him. General puzzlement descends upon the group. Sir Toby, also bleeding, enters with... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
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...her pardon for having hurt her kinsman. Everyone is astonished. Orsino exclaims that Sebastian and Cesario are identical: "one face, one voice, one habit, and two persons" (5.1.208). Antonio says, "an... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
Deception, Disguise, and Performance Theme Icon
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Through a series of questions, Sebastian and Viola identify each other and rejoice: they are reunited! Yet, Viola says to the confused onlookers,... (full context)
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...Orsino reassures Olivia, telling her that the twins have noble blood. He then turns to Viola and says that he often heard Cesario swear that he would never love a woman... (full context)
Desire and Love Theme Icon
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...of them. Orsino accepts. He releases her from his service and from the persona of Cesario. (full context)
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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... (full context)