Orsino, Duke of Illyria
The ruler of Illyria. A powerful gentleman obsessed with marrying the fair Lady Olivia and unaware that he himself has a secret admirer.
The secret admirer of Orsino. Viola comes to work for Orsino in the guise of the page Cesario after being shipwrecked. Much favoured by the Duke, Viola/Cesario is entrusted to convey the Duke's love to Countess Olivia. This causes problems for Viola, who serves her master faithfully, despite desiring Orsino for herself and being the unwitting (and unwilling!) target of Countess Olivia's affections. Fortunately, Viola has a brother, called Sebastian who is identical to her male guise of Cesario; she fears that he died when their ship broke up at the beginning of the play. His return to the story creates the beginnings of some happy endings for the play.
A Sea Captain
A friend to Viola, he helps her to disguise herself as Cesario. He initially reports Viola's twin brother, Sebastian dead.
A countess of high social standing and great beauty, her hand in marriage is desired by Orsino. She has resigned herself to seven years solitude following the loss of first her father and then her much loved brother. Spurning love in all its forms, she shuns Orsino's romantic overtures, but at the sight of Cesario/Viola, falls deeply in love, causing many problems for Cesario/Viola. She later marries Sebastian, who looking exactly like Cesario, also steals Lady Olivia's heart.
Viola's twin brother. When the ship he and Viola were travelling on sinks, he fears his sister dead, as she does of him. Frequently mistaken for Cesario, Sebastian eventually is reunited with his sister, earlier taking the willing Countess Olivia as his wife.
A Sea Captain by trade, Antonio is a man with many enemies in the Duke's court. Nonetheless he accompanies Sebastian in his travels. His is memorable for the expression, That danger shall seem sport ... (Act II, Scene I). It is not said straight out but Antonio is in love with Sebastian and he shows this by helping Sebastian on his journey.
Sir Toby Belch
Sir Toby passes his time drinking in niece's (Lady Olivia) house with fellow drinker Sir Andrew Aguecheek, much to the displeasure of Olivia, her servant Maria and Olivia's uptight and humourless steward Malvolio. A great schemer of practical jokes, Sir Toby enjoys playing tricks on Malvolio, his friend Sir Andrew and anyone else who captures his fleeting attention. The aptly-named Sir Toby Belch serves as the Lord of Misrule in the play.
Sir Andrew Aguecheek
The drinking partner of Sir Toby, he too pushes Lady Olivia's patience and hospitality with continuously loud and lewd behaviour. Described by Sir Toby as being as tall a man as any's in Illyria, Sir Andrew is not overly intelligent. He, like Sir Toby has little love for the annoying Malvolio and is party to a practical joke against him. Sir Andrew however is greatly valued by Sir Toby since he is rich, earning some three thousand ducats a year. Unwittingly, Sir Andrew is also the pawn in Sir Toby's plot-making. Naive by nature, he is manipulated by Sir Toby into pursuing Lady Olivia since this will maintain Sir Toby's drinking lifestyle. Later Sir Andrew is manipulated into challenging Cesario, who becomes a threat to Sir Toby's plans.
Lady Olivia's steward, Malvolio sees himself in a somewhat grandiose light, imagining Olivia to love him and wishing to be more than his current rank. This, and his continuous disapproval of Sir Toby and Sir Andrew's drinking, earn him their hatred and he quickly becomes their pawn in a complex romantic ruse. He thinks himself somewhat above his station and as a result is disliked by others - the focus for the master/servant humour. Maria, in true commedia style, helps in his demise!
Lady Olivia's gentlewoman is patient and tactful where Malvolio is brash and insulting. She too, disapproves of Sir Toby and company's drinking but tries tactfully to subdue their boisterous spirits. Her dislike of Malvolio leads her to create an elaborate romantic trick on Malvolio, which she also uses to calm down Sir Toby and company, who are enthusiastic conspirators in Malvolio's humiliation.
Referred to in the text as 'The Clown' and a servant to Olivia, Feste like so many of Shakespeare's fools, speaks the truth from the source of comedy. He is much appreciated by Sir Toby, who spends many hours with him.
A servant of Lady Olivia who also dislikes Malvolio and participates enthusiastically in his downfall.
Valentine and Curio
Gentlemen attending Orsino at the start of the play.