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A young woman who is shipwrecked, having lost her twin brother Sebastian, and lands in Illyria quite by accident; she resolves to make the best of her situation, and be taken into Orsino's service, as a young eunuch named Cesario. Viola is quickly taken into Orsino's confidence, and he tells her all the secrets of his heart; she is entrusted with wooing Olivia, though Olivia herself falls for Viola as Cesario. Viola herself is in love with Orsino, though she cannot admit this; she does succeed in gaining Orsino's affections, however, and gets him to be a more honest, less self-centered person.
A noblewoman, Countess of Illyria. She lost her father, then her brother right before the beginning of the play; she resolves to be in mourning for her brother for seven years, thus thwarting Orsino's attempts to woo her. She becomes enamoured of Viola, who acts as a messenger for Orsino; and though Olivia tries her best to win Viola, Viola does her best to let her down easily, because Viola is not a boy like she pretends to be. Olivia rushes off and marries Sebastian, thinking that he is Viola as Cesario; but everything works out in the end.