Twelfth Night | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Twelfth Night | Act 4, Scene 1 | Summary



The Fool, believing he has Cesario in hand, is bringing Sebastian to see Olivia. Sir Toby and Sir Andrew reappear. Sir Andrew, at Sir Toby's urging, slaps Sebastian, challenging him to fight. Unlike Viola, Sebastian is more than ready to fight, and he eagerly takes on Sir Andrew and Sir Toby. Before anything too serious occurs, Olivia arrives and intervenes. She sends Sir Toby away and invites Sebastian—who she thinks is Cesario—into her house. Sebastian is puzzled, but perfectly willing to go with the beautiful woman who speaks so lovingly to him.


Sebastian and Viola may look alike, but they are temperamentally very different. Sebastian is more aggressive. Viola bandies words with the Fool, but Sebastian wants the Fool to stop with the silly comments. Viola pleaded with Sir Andrew not to fight, while Sebastian jumps right in to fight both Sir Andrew and Sir Toby. Olivia thinks Sir Toby is the aggressor and Cesario needs her help, which is not true because it is Sebastian who is fighting. Cesario is attractive to Olivia partly because she feels she could control a young, gentle man. Sebastian is a very different prospect.

Shakespeare's language also shows Sebastian and Olivia as a successful couple. Near the end of the scene, Olivia shifts into speaking in blank verse, and Sebastian picks it up from her. Not only do they both speak in blank verse (with occasional rhymed couplets), they also finish each other's sentences, just as Orsino and Viola do.

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