Olivia (Twelfth Night)

Another strong female character in Twelfth Night is Olivia. She is an intelligent character of court, a woman of independence and of property after her father left his possessions to her brother, and then she in turn inherited them from him. However when she marries, according to social aspects of that era, her husband will gain all of that power. She is also the object of desire from Orsino, Sir Andrew, Malvolio and eventually Sebastian.

Essay Example on Twelfth Night is Olivia

At the beginning of the play, Olivia is a cloistress in mourning for her brother, and shows excessive melancholy and extravagance that parallels Orsino.

Both characters are steeped in the melancholy of sentimental love to the point of being blinded by it and both suffer from the complexities of love. But Orsino takes a passive approach to the pursuit of love, in the way that he sends Cesario to pursue Olivia, whereas Olivia takes a more active role. However, Olivia’s attempts to be reclusive seem to be more posturing than actual mourning, and this is another way in which appearances are deceptive, as Olivia soon transforms, removing her veil and asking Cesario “Is’t not well done?”

Although Olivia can be seen as a typical cultural construction of femininity, she transgresses that role and shows impetuosity in the way that she relentlessly pursues Cesario.

In Elizabethan times, women could not be seen to be chasing men as it gave women wantonness, similarly the Bible was thought to be factual, and Adam created Eve for him, not the other way around.

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“ Amazing as always, gave her a week to finish a big assignment and came through way ahead of time. ”

Olivia however appears to recognize that she oversteps the rules of conduct: “Have you not set mine honor at the stake?” Even though Olivia steps out of her assigned sociohistorical position, she later steps back into it by marrying Sebastian to provide the Jacobian audience with closure.

She is worldly wise in the way that she knows how money can win somebody over “I thank you for your pains: spend this for me” she says to Cesario, and she also has a good relationship with Feste the jester, albeit occasionally scolding him for being out of line, she seems to enjoy and find amusing his witty repartee. Although she is undoubtedly intelligent, she shows fickleness in the way that she swaps Cesario for Sebastian, and this also is similar to the inconstancy of Orsino. Through Orsino, Shakespeare criticizes women “For women are as roses, whose fair flower / Being once display’d, doth fall that very hour”, and the impermanence of women’s beauty. Although Olivia seems to dislike Malvolio at times “O, you are sick of self-love, Malvolio, and taste with a distemper’d appetite.” she displays compassion and kindness in the way that she attempts to bring him back into the wedding society. This sentimentality is seen in many of Shakespeare’s portrayals of women, and is similar to the way in which Maria is presented.

Maria is Olivia’s lady in waiting, and is a character who balances the household. She tolerates Sir Andrew and Sir Toby’s folly, yet doesn’t hesitate to scold them when she feels it has gone too far. Sir Toby and Maria are having an affair, and Sir Toby boasts that she adores him. Maria is the character who single-handedly thinks up the plot to gull Malvolio, and in doing so gains the admiration of the male characters, Sir Toby says “O, twill be admirable” of the plan. She is a literary construct who embodies some of Shakespeare’s main ideas and themes. She can also be seen as some of Shakespeare’s praise of women, as in letting a female character be so intelligent, witty and quick-minded, Shakespeare is giving women qualities that were scarcely seen to exist in Elizabethan England.

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Olivia (Twelfth Night)

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Olivia in the twelfth night.

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            In Shakespeare's comedic and light-hearted story the Twelfth Night, Olivia, a rich countess of Illyria, is the constant admiration of Orsino, Duke of Illyria. Orsino, who in his cowardly ways is unable to approach Olivia, so sends Cesario (Viola, disguised as a man) to court Olivia for him. Generally accustomed to being treated with dignity and respect, Olivia is flirtatious and playful in romantic matters. Her behavior toward Viola-Cesario, with whom she is infatuated, is thrown in high contrast to Viola's mostly nonchalant and subtle flattering of Orison. .              Cesario appeals to Olivia when he speaks of the Duke's love in a poetic and soothing quality. Cesario states, "With adorations, and fertile tears/ With groans that thunder love, with signs of fire," wooing Olivia with his passionate words expressing the Duke's undying true love (I, v, 244-5). Cesario shows his vulnerability when saying, "Make me a willow cabin at your gate/ And call upon my soul within the house But make the babbling gossip of the air Cry out Olivia!" which also shows (I, v, 257-63) Cesario also courts Olivia in a teasing and sarcastic but respectful manner, showing Olivia is not all seriousness, revealing a humorous side. Olivia shows attraction for Cesario because of his expressive and unrehearsed speeches of devotion. Cesario, being a woman herself, is telling Olivia things any women wants to hear, making it easy for Cesario to appeal to Olivia. Olivia proclaims her love to Cesario by saying, "Yet come again; for thou perhaps mayst move/ That heart which now abhors to like his love," revealing her incapability of not falling in love with Cesario and feeling unable to stop what is happening in the matters of love but let fate take it's course (III, ii, 162-3).              In another encounter with Cesario, Olivia believes "If one should be the pray, how much the better/ To fall before the lion than the wolf" (III, I, 127-8).

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The Twelfth Night The Twelfth Night is a play about changes and yet the character of Olivia does not seem to change.. ... Olivia has fallen in love with Cesario but what Olivia does not know is that Cesario is really Viola. ... Olivia says, "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; Hallo your name to the reverberate hills And make the babbling gossip of the air Cry out "Olivia!" ... This is a fantasy that Olivia carries with her and Viola seems to ...

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6. Shakespeare's Parallels

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twelfth night olivia essay

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Character Analysis Olivia

The comedy opens with music being played to remind the duke of Olivia; the first scene discusses the lady's charms; and she is mentioned in the second scene as having lost a brother. Viola feels an instant empathy with a person mourning a lost brother since she herself believes that her brother is also drowned. In the third scene, Olivia's house is the setting, and in the fourth scene, Olivia is again the central subject of discussion. Thus, we hear a great deal about this important lady before we actually meet her.

At first, Olivia seems to be the emotional counterpart for the duke; he is a melancholy parallel for Olivia, and Olivia has sworn to abjure the world for seven years to mourn for her dead brother, an act of extreme sentimental melancholy. Olivia is also the opposite of Viola in many ways. While Olivia is attracted to her opposite (Viola in the guise of Cesario), Viola will be attracted to her opposite, Duke Orsino.

Other than the melodramatic pose that Olivia is assuming at the beginning of the play (we know it to be a pose because she is willing to immediately discard it in order to flirt with Cesario), Olivia is presented as being essentially an intelligent woman with a number of good qualities. Her intelligence is constantly seen in the many household matters that she has to attend to. She has to contend with her drunken uncle, Sir Toby Belch, and when Malvolio presents himself in his mad garb, she feels compassion for her foolish steward. Yet, earler when Feste made fun of Malvolio, the over-serious steward, Olivia was fully capable of appreciating the clown's wit.

The single quality that characterizes Olivia best is perhaps her impetuous love and her assertion of it. She is much more aggressive in the pursuit of her love than is Duke Orsino in his pursuit of Olivia. While she recognizes the duke's good qualities and acknowledges them, she is adamant in her refusals, and, thus, it is part of the comedy that the lady who has no sympathy for the duke falls so irrationally in love with a young girl disguised as a young boy. When she discovers that she has actually married young Sebastian, Viola's twin, she quickly transfers her love to him, just as Duke Orsino is able to transfer his love to Viola.

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