Maria is Olivia’s lady-in-waiting and is a balancing character. She scolds Toby and Andrew for their drunkenness, but she also tolerates them and shows her own capacity for pranks by initiating the phony love letter ploy against her supervisor, Malvolio. In I.
iii, Maria draws our attention to Sir Toby Belch’s habitual late nights and drunkenness when she warns him that his niece, Countess Olivia, has lost patience with his dissolute behavior. She also prepares us for the entrance shortly afterward of Sir Andrew Aguecheek by referring to him as “a foolish knight” whom Sir Toby…Olivia, of course, is the main female role, the object of amorous intentions by the Duke, by Sir Andrew, by Malvolio and, eventually, by Sebastian. She is obviously a beautiful young woman of proper breeding who disapproves of Sir Toby’s tipsy rabble-rousing but nonetheless generously tolerates his presence in her household.
Her kindness is also evident in Olivia’s efforts to bring Malvolio back into the wedding society at the play’s end. On the other side of the coin, Olivia is a moody woman whose reclusiveness seems more a matter of posturing than of genuine mourning. We note, for…Viola is a gentlewoman from a country called Messaline and also the twin sister of Sebastian.
Whether disguised as the young man Cesario or in her true identity as Sebastian’s sister, Viola is the central character of the play. Not only does the main plot dilemma hinge upon Viola, she is the only one of the characters (or at least the first) who knows its kinks. In this sense, Viola has greater wisdom than the others do, for she is able to objectively evaluate (most) of the events that take place while others remain in the dark. Resourceful, loving and loyal, Viola is an attractive young…