Sebastian enters, followed by Antonio, who has just rescued him from a shipwreck. The distraught Sebastian tells Antonio that his only living relative, a twin sister, has perished in the wreckage. Antonio offers to work as Sebastian’s servant, but Sebastian wishes to be left alone. He sets out for Duke Orsino’s court, and Antonio—who won’t take no for an answer—resolves to follow him in secret.
Close Reading Analysis:
- Discussion Points:
Characterization of Sebastian:
(Lines 3-8) By your patience, no. My stars shine darkly over me: the malignancy of my fate might perhaps distemper yours; therefore I shall crave of you your leave that I may bear my evils alone: it were a bad recompense for your love, to lay any of them on you.
What is your first impression of Sebastian? Does he seem better suited to a tragedy or a comedy? Locate words and phrases in the text that give you a sense of his mood.
Vocabulary: malignancy, distemper, recompense
(Lines 37-39) If you will not undo what you have done, that is, kill him whom you have recovered, desire it not.
When asked whether he wants Antonio as his servant, Sebastian replies that, unless Antonio will “serve” him by killing him, he’s not interested in Antonio’s help.
Characterization of Antonio:
(Lines 35-36) If you will not murder me for my love, let me be your servant.
Note: Antonio’s idea of being “murdered” is being separated from Sebastian.
(Lines 47-48) But come what may, I do adore thee so / That danger shall seem sport, and I will go.
What do these lines suggest about Antonio’s character? His objective? What kind of relationship does he desire with Sebastian? Can you predict what he might do later in the course of the play?
Potential for tragedy within a comedy
How does Shakespeare's use of dramatic irony (the audience knowing something that the characters don't) shift Sebastian's story from a tragic one to a comic one?
Levels of love
How would you characterize Antonio's professed "love" for Sebastian? Is it friendly? Romantic? Brotherly? Something else? Why do you think so?
- Literary Devices:
Personification: (Lines 29-30) she bore a mind that envy could not but call fair—referring to Viola, personifying envy
Pun: (Lines 30-32) She is drowned already, sir, with salt water, though I seem to drown her remembrance again with more.—referring to Viola, who was “drowned” in the sea, and whose memory is now drowned by Sebastian’s salty tears
Rhyme: used at the end of a scene to signal its close (note that the entire scene is written in prose, until Antonio’s final lines)
1. If Sebastian’s twin sister were indeed dead, how might this play continue?
2. Now that we have twins—and each of them has no idea that the other is alive and in Illyria—what predictions can you make about the plot of the play? Can you think of other stories, plays, films, etc. that make use of twins in a similar way?
1. What attitudes did Elizabethans hold about male-male relationships, both platonic and homosexual?