Olivia, Viola/Cesario Love Triangle

Love is an occurring theme for Shakespeare in his plays, as we saw in A Midsummer’s Night Dream and now in Twelfth Night. It seems like Shakespeare enjoys playing with love triangles in his work. Twelfth Night follows along this love pattern, but also introduces new ideas of love that may confuse the audience a little. Shakespeare of course gives us a nobleman and woman who are meant to be married, in which the story is involved around. But he also gives his audience a love interest which is surprising. He introduces Viola early in the play; but as the play continues, Viola pretends to be a man and thus turns into Cesario. This creates an interesting love theme throughout the rest of the play.

Cesario unintentionally wins over the love of Olivia while trying to convince her to love and marry Orsino. This is the surprising love affair that Shakespeare creates because Olivia falls in love with a woman whom she thinks is a man. The very first glimpse of this we get in Act 1 Scene 5,

“Methinks I feel this youth’s perfections

With an invisible and subtle stealth

To creep in at mine eyes. Well, let it be.”

Olivia is amazed by the man she just encountered because he is not like any other man she has met before. Viola, as Cesario, is a gentle and sweet man that invites Olivia into caring for him in way she has never thought of before. One thing which seemed odd to me is how Viola keeps going to see Olivia. She knows that Olivia is falling for her and feels bad because she is not who Olivia believes she is. She also knows that this is bad because she is supposed to be doing Orsino a favor by convincing Olivia to marry him. Maybe Viola continues to visit Olivia because she thinks she can win over Olivia’s love for Orsino and convince her that loving Cesario cannot happen. It just does not make sense to me because Viola/Cesario does not even tell Orsino the truth about what is taking place. If he did, maybe Orsino would actually go meet with Olivia himself and win her over.

It is clear that Shakespeare loves to use his intelligence to his advantage by creating such interesting and captivating stories. He gives the audience an unconventional love scenario that only he can explain. This scene leaves the audience asking themselves many questions. How can a woman love another woman? How can Olivia not see that Cesario has more womanly features than manly? What will happen when she finds out the truth? All of these questions will hopefully work their way out at the end of the play.


3 thoughts on “Olivia, Viola/Cesario Love Triangle

  1. caitgee7

    I think that Shakespeare enjoys his puns with Olivia falling for Viola while she is disguised. I think this speaks to the underlying theme of love but also that maybe it is easier for a woman to love another woman because the characteristics they share are similar. As you’ve pointed out, when Viola is disguised we think that it she would be seen as less manly or masculine but I think that this is just because as a reader we know that he is really a she. However, as we’ve seen from different adaptations this doesn’t necessarily hold true. Olivia may fall in love with Cesario because they mesh well together. Regardless of the cause, I think it makes for a good twist to a love triangle.

  2. mcgovere1

    I liked your post a lot. Shakespeare really loves the complexity of love. It is funny because we can even add a forth into this love triangle and make it a love square! If we add in Orsino there becomes even more complicated love. Orsino is originally in love with Olivia lusting after her and asking for her hand in marriage. But then Viola begins to fall in love with Orsino while Olivia loves Viola (Cessario) but then marries Sebastian, and then Viola and Orsino eventually end up together… complicated love!!!

  3. mcgovere1

    I liked your post a lot. I think that the complexity of love is a huge theme in all of Shakespeare’s plays. I also think that we can even complicate this triangle more and add a fourth person. If we add Orsino and create a “love square” we have even more intertwined confusing love. Orsino originally loves Olivia, but Olivia loves Cessario, but Viola loves Orsino, then Olivia marries Sebastian thinking it is Cessario, while finally, Orsino falls in love with Viola and they love each other back. Some confusing stuff…


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