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TWELFTH NIGHT - Characters

ORSINO, Duke of Illyria. "I suppose him virtuous, know him noble, Of great estate, of fresh and stainless youth; In voices well divulged, free, learn'd and valiant; And in dimension and the shape of nature A gracious person…" A nobleman, fond of music, who expresses himself very seriously, at great length, in very lyrical (and often-quoted) phrases. In love with Olivia.

SEBASTIAN, a young nobleman, twin brother to Viola. "Right noble is his blood." Rescued from shipwreck by Antonio. Level-headed but warm-hearted, and ready for any adventure -- be it sight-seeing, dueling, or love. *

ANTONIO, a sea captain, devoted friend to Sebastian. Passionate in nature, he risks his life for political ideals and for the love of his young friend. *

SEA CAPTAIN, friend to Viola. The captain of the sunk ship that had carried Viola and Sebastian. His basic good nature in the face of his own troubles is bolstered by Viola's monetary expressions of gratitude. He helps her first with information and then with a promise of secrecy. *

VALENTINE, a gentleman attending on the Duke. He has been wooing Olivia for the Duke, without success. [NB -- This role could be cross-cast, as "Valentina."] *

CURIO, another gentleman attending on the Duke. [NB -- This role could be cross-cast, as "Curia."] *

SIR TOBY BELCH, uncle to Olivia. "By mine honour, half drunk!" A Dionysian fellow who finds his fun drinking, eating, singing (not necessarily well!), dancing (ditto), flirting, and playing practical jokes. If you know Falstaff, you know the type -- but Toby is less immoral; he actually ends up marrying the girl he carouses with. Usually played by a fat actor.

SIR ANDREW AGUECHEEK. "…besides that he's a fool, he's a great quarreller: and but that he hath the gift of a coward to allay the gust he hath in quarrelling, 'tis thought among the prudent he would quickly have the gift of a grave." Sir Toby's patsy; he thinks he has a hope of winning Olivia, who never notices him. While he's waiting to be noticed, he has his share of fun hanging around with Toby and Maria. Specifically described as having straight hair. Usually played by a thin actor.

MALVOLIO, steward to Olivia. "…a time-pleaser; an affectioned ass, that cons state without book and utters it by great swarths: the best persuaded of himself, so crammed, as he thinks, with excellencies, that it is his grounds of faith that all that look on him love him…" An officious, puritanical gentleman whose infuriatingly punctilious pronouncements upon correct behavior earn a revenge in the form of a practical joke played by the merrier members of Olivia's household.

FABIAN, a servant to Olivia. One of the merry members of the household who share in Sir Toby and Maria's joke. *

FESTE, a jester or clown, attached to Olivia, but often visiting the Duke's palace. "This fellow is wise enough to play the fool; And to do that well craves a kind of wit: He must observe their mood on whom he jests, The quality of persons, and the time... This is a practise As full of labour as a wise man's art…" A complex character: he sings beautiful, sad love-songs for the Duke, and wild drunken rounds with Sir Toby and Sir Andrew; he accompanies himself on the tabor (and possibly on other instruments); he plays with words and impersonates different characters in the course of his jests, but he also expresses his share of philosophy. One of his songs serves as the epilogue. [NB -- This role could be played as a "trouser role," that is, by an actress playing a male character.]

OLIVIA. "A virtuous maid, the daughter of a count That died some twelvemonth since…" A beautiful, intelligent and capable young noblewoman who, although she is in mourning for her father and brother, still exhibits a degree of native wit and playfulness which may account for her lack of interest in the serious, lyrical, not at all playful Duke.

VIOLA, young noblewoman, twin sister to Sebastian. One of the survivors of a shipwreck, she protects herself in a strange country by disguising herself as an adolescent boy, imitating her brother's clothing and behavior. Intelligent, brave, warm-hearted and self-aware -- her adventures as a result of her disguise make up the main plot of the play.

MARIA, described by Sir Toby as Olivia's "chambermaid," but described by Olivia herself as "my gentlewoman." Her wit and her spirits make her good comrade for Sir Toby. She devises the plot to torment Malvolio.

Priest, called upon to bear witness to a betrothal at which he has officiated. A character whose personality can be defined by the available actor, within the context of an honest, sincere nature. *

First and Second Officers. Serious, impatient officers of the law who arrest Antonio and later bring him before the Duke. Must look capable of successfully wielding a sword. *

Olivia's servant -- a lady attendant upon her, who speaks one line. A character whose personality can be defined by the available actress. *

Lords, sailors, musicians, other attendants, and shipwreck survivors *

The musicians must be able to at least look like they are playing the type of instruments that would have been played at the Duke's court -- either an individual lute, a viola da gamba or perhaps an entire viol consort.

* These actors may be called upon to play more than one role.