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
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