Twelfth Night

The Transformative Power of the Character of Sebastian in "Twelfth Night"

The character of Sebastian in "Twelfth Night" represents the dynamic factor in an otherwise static equation. Illyria is an immutable place, and the people who live and visit the land become ensnared in a stasis. Shakespeare uses the device of twins to resolve the static tension in "Twelfth Night". Separated at sea, the twins end up shipwrecked in Illyria, each believing the other has perished. The first sibling, Viola, falls into the stasis that permeates Illyria. It is not until she is reconciled with her brother, Sebastian, that the stasis is dissolved.

As we learn from the character of Proteus in Shakespeare's "Two Gentlemen of Verona", the sea has transformative powers. Another of Proteus's powers is his ability to change shapes. In "Twelfth Night", Shakespeare applies both themes to Viola and Sebastian. As twins, they represent two halves of a whole. Separated, they are both powerless; reunited, they have the power to control their own destinies and break the static tension of Illyria.

The "static tension" in Illyria is most obviously manifested in the grid-locked situation of Duke Orsino's unrequited love for the Countess Olivia. Orsino pines for the Countess,...

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