Twelfth Night | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Twelfth Night | Act 2, Scene 1 | Summary

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Summary

Sebastian, Viola's brother, arrives in Illyria with the help of Antonio. Antonio saved Sebastian from the shipwreck, and he wants to continue helping him, even though Antonio is in danger in Illyria because he has enemies at Orsino's court. Sebastian is grieving for Viola, who he thinks is dead, but he sets out for Orsino's court.

Analysis

For the first time the audience sees Sebastian, Viola's brother, who, it turns out, did not drown. Like Viola, Sebastian speaks in prose, too emotionally distraught to be poetic. Within the first few minutes of the scene, Sebastian says he and Viola are twins, thus setting up as plausible Olivia's confusion of him with Cesario in Act 4. He describes his sister, whom he believes to be dead, as beautiful and intelligent—an unusual description, as women were rarely praised for their intelligence in Shakespeare's day.

Sebastian sees himself as cursed. He tells Antonio, "My stars shine darkly over me. The malignancy of my fate might perhaps distemper yours." Because Sebastian and Viola's father is also dead, Sebastian may indeed have reason to think himself unlucky. However, he was lucky to have Antonio find him. Antonio repeatedly expresses his love for Sebastian, almost as if he views him as a surrogate son. Antonio is older, a peer of Orsino's—possibly even a peer of Sebastian and Viola's father—so he may feel a certain obligation to look after an unfortunate young man in a strange environment.

Sebastian expresses his desire to see Orsino's court. Like his sister, he may remember his father speaking of Orsino in the past. Thanks to dramatic irony (in which the reader or audience know something the character does not), the audience has an even greater desire to see Sebastian in Orsino's court: they know he will find Viola there.

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