The Triangle Completed...

Act I opens with a fair woman, Viola, washed up on the shores of a distant land called Ilyria. This young woman is having serious troubles since in the shipwreck, which happened the night previous, she saw her brother being swept out to sea, and now fears that he may be dead. On top of all of this, she is alone on in a distant land where she lacks contacts and finance. This land is run by the Count Orsino who is having serious problems in the romance department. Viola decides to gain a position as a member of the Count's Court but, the only problem is that Orsino will only take on males as his courtisans... a predicament if ever there was one!

Count Orsino is madly in love with the lady Olivia, who has recently lost her brother and is now the sole inheritor of her father's vast estate. She'll have none of the over-zealous count, as all of her time must be spent mourning her dead sibling. A new addition to Orsino's court, Cesario, seems the perfect candidate to send Orsino's wooing advances to Olivia once and for all. When sent by Orsino to "address thy gait unto [Olivia]" (1-4-16) and try once more to desperately win Olivia's heart for him, Olivia's changes for certain in another direction.

Turns out that this Cesario is really Viola dressed up as a man. To make things worse, Cesario, in whom "all is semblative of a woman's part" (1-4-37), is the prefect type of delicate man for Olivia - she falls for him.

Of course, what can we expect besides a love triangle? Orsino loves Olivia; Olivia loves Cesario; Cesario loves Orsino. Once Viola has successfully, though accidentally, gained the eternal love of Olivia, she decides that there is nothing more that she can do to secure Olivia's heart for Orsino. We end the act with Olivia, a slave of passion to Cesario/Viola, giving her man servant, Malvolio, a ring which Cesario "accidentally" left behind. Malvolio's told to chase after her new love with his "lost" ring. And so the plot thickens as Malvolio chases after an unsuspecting Viola!

Above all it is necessary to keep the plot running - who loves whom and what can possibly come of the messy arrangement. Most of the metaphors don't serve much besides to show Shakespeare's literary style, as do some parts of dialogue that repeat and repeat. These devices don't contribute to the flow and overall goal of the piece.

Like Some Old Married Couple(s)

The scene opens with a yelling match between Maria, Olivia's right-hand woman, and the Fool. Apparently he was late for some
undisclosed appointment and she needs to tell him how angry Olivia's going to be. Needless to say their explanations take on a little unnecessary length. Maria threatens a hanging, and the Fool gladly welcomes it. Calling their concise answers "a good Lenten answer" (1-5-9) or discussing the origin of a proverb don't contribute to the flow of the story nor would they be interesting to see acted out.

These two are some of the most comedic characters, however, and thus the jokes are still important. The Fool gains the edge on her when he notes how "many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage" (I-5-19), but she gets him back saying how his argument is held up like the pins in his britches.


The lady of the house makes her grand entrance and wants none of the Fool's 'nonsense.' Much of their conversation is useless banter, building up to a bigger point. It's messy trying to figure out how "anything that's mended is but patched" and "virtue that transgresses is but patched with sin, and sin that amends is but patched with virtue" (1-5-44 to 46). What role sin plays in calling Olivia an idiot is beyond me and can be excised without anyone being the wiser.

Their exchange does, however, show us just what a smart cookie the jester is. Why should Olivia "mourn for [her] brother's soul, being in heaven" (1-5-69) unless she's being stupid? The fool points that out and shows some of his wit.

Mr. Killjoy


Now Malvolio shows up, Olivia's not-so-amusing servant. Unlike Olivia, warming up to the Fool's jokes, Malvolio won't let himself enjoy them. He's too busy marveling how "your ladyship takes delight in such a barren rascal" (1-5-81). They keep on talking, saying some useless things like how the Fool "put down the other day with an ordinary fool that has no more brain than a stone" (1-5-83). Being that Malvolio just claimed the fool's uselessness, there's no need to have the reitterating lines at a time that doesn't require a lot of emphasis.

Though a portion of the dialogue between Malvolio and the Fool has been taken out, the bones of the scene have been left in place. The core piece of this section is where Olivia says that "there's no slander in an allowed fool" (1-5:92). Because this basic idea was retained, overly elaborate lines such as "to be generous, guiltless, and of free disposition is to take those things for bird bolts that you deem cannon bullets" (1-5:90) could be taken out. Basically, Olivia is saying that Malvolio's taking everything waaaaay too seriously. The premiss behind this line was summed up in the statement on line 92. This is very important in the development of both characters. This scene shows how Malvolio, the ever stuck-up and proud servant, sees himself as better than all of the other characters in the play.

This essential part of Malvolio's "Malvolioness" is portrayed perfectly in this section of dialogue and should not be removed. It also leads to the development of the Fool as a character, especially since it shows both sides of his nature, as both a great character and a fallible one. At times, Malvolio likes to hear himself speak and in this instance, goes off on a tangent about how "unless you laugh and minister to [the Fool], he is gagged" (1-5:85). Though the Fool has some flaws, Malvolio's calling them out in public may lead to the Fool's future actions as "retribution" for Malvolio's taunting.

When Sir Toby comes in wasted Malvolio is happier than ever (his disdainful words towards the man are even more justified), but is dispatched to ward off Viola/Cesario and we don't hear too much of his complaining.

The Drunk


Sir Toby, as we learned before, is habitually intoxicated, which makes for some good jokes. He clearly made friends with Mr. Whiskey before 5 pm, and when asked about that "lethargy," defies all lechery they are accusing him of (1-5-122-125). This section emphasizes the drunkenness of the character of Sir Toby and provides a great deal of humor as well. Since this play is naturally a comedy, it is important to keep the characters' (such as humorous Sir Toby's) dialogue in tact. For example, phrases such as "Let him be the devil an he will, I care not" (1-5-126) exemplify his somewhat sloppy attitudes and careless nature.

A Youth's Arrival


Following Sir Toby, Malvolio is the next one to speak to Olivia on the arrival of Orsino's ambassador. As before Olivio has been adamant about her decision to disregard any of Orsino's advances. Malvolio's tells Olivia he is unable to get the messenger to leave. Malvolio's tone shows that he is unsure of how to handle the situation. When Olivia asks "What kind o' man is he?" he responds "of Mankind", an obvious observation that does not answer Olivia's question (1-5-149-150). At the same time he has a desire to be in control and to be subservient to Olivia. Certain lines of Malvolio's text were ommited because they seemed only to reiterate his message. For example, after having already asked what action to take, he asks again "He'll speak with you, will you or no." (1-5-152-153) and only repeats himself.

As stated before, Olivia does not want to see the messenger. She asks Maria to throw a veil over her face, and only in that way will she speak.

A Potential Lovers' Quarrel?

Enter the attractive lady Olivia and the oh-so-handsome youth from Orsino's embassy, Viola/Cesario. As previously stated, Olivia is clearly fooled by Viola's disguise and becomes enamored with him\her. A slightly humorous and confusing dialog ensues. In Line 250, Viola\Cesario says "I see you what you are. You are too proud. But, if you were the devil, you are fair. My lord and master loves you. O, such love could be but recompensed though you were crowned nonpareil of beauty." To which Olivia replies "Your lord does know my mind, I cannot love him. Yet I suppose him virtuous, know him noble, of great estate, of fresh and stainless youth; but I cannot love him." Here Viola is arguing the Count Orsino's love for Olivia, but at this point in the conversation we get an idea that Olivia likes Viola/Cesario.


The conversation continues back and forth like a see-saw of unrequited love and mistaken identity. But like any good messenger, Viola/Cesario is bade to leave after failing to woo Olivia for the Count. Olivia, maybe a bit snobbishly, says to Viola/Cesario "Get you to your lord. I cannont love him. Let him send no more-unless perchance you come to me again to tell me how he takes it. I thank you for your pains" and at this point she offers money because the messenger was doing his job. But we omitted the lines "Spend this for me"(1-5:288) and the reply by Viola "I am no fee'd post, lady"(1-5:289) but we kept the rest of it where Viola says "Keep your purse, My master, not myself, lacks recompense. Farewell, fair cruelty."(1-5:289-293) The very last three words, in particular, show Viola/Cesario's dedication to portray Orsino's emotions towards Olivia. She treats him very distastefully, even though he's prepared to devote his life to her.

These lines are somewhat important because we get a clear picture that Olivia is completely in love with Viola\Cesario. If people in modern times could fall in love that fast and get married quickly the world would be...interesting. Some lines of Olivia where deemed as redundant and so were taken out. For example when Olivia asks to know Viola/Cesario's parentage, the knave responds that it is "above [his] fortunes, yet [his] state is well" (1-5:294). This line, though alluding to his not-so-elevated social status, does not serve as a powerful representation of Shakespeare's love of inter-class relationships. Viola then departs and Olivia chastises herself because she wants to see Viola/Cesario again, so she selfishly makes up some story about him/her leaving a ring there and sending Malvolio to give it back. The scene ends Olivia kicking herself in the rump urging Malvolio to catch Viola/Cesario.