Act 1, Scene 1
Orsino, Duke of Illyria, is in love with Olivia, a countess. His attendant brings word that Olivia has decided to veil her face for seven years, because she grieves the death of her beloved brother. Orsino wishes she would direct this love at him.
Act 1, Scene 2
Viola Becomes Cesario
Viola is shipwrecked on Illyria and fears her brother is lost at sea. The ship’s Captain tells her about the Duke and his fruitless pursuit of Olivia. Viola asks the captain to help her dress as a man so she can become the Duke’s servant.
Act 1, Scene 3
Sir Toby Belch, Olivia’s uncle, is told off by her maid, Maria, for coming home late and drunk. Maria says Olivia disliked Sir Toby trying to set her up with his friend, Sir Andrew Aguecheek. Sir Andrew unsuccessfully flirts with Maria to get closer to Olivia. Sir Toby persuades Sir Andrew to keep trying.
Act 1, Scene 4
Orsino Has a Job for Viola
Viola has assumed the name of Cesario in her new role as a young man. The Duke asks Viola (Cesario) to go to Olivia with a team of attendants and woo her on his behalf. Viola promises to try, but has fallen in love with the Duke – something that she has to keep secret now that she is masquerading as a man.
Act 1, Scene 5
Love at First Sight
Olivia banters with her jester, Feste. Malvolio, Olivia’s steward, does not think he is funny. Viola/Cesario tells Olivia that Orsino loves her. Olivia says she does not love him. Instead, she has fallen for Cesario. She sends Malvolio after him with a ring.
Act 2, Scene 1
Sebastian, Viola’s brother, is alive and well. He was rescued by a sea captain, Antonio. Sebastian believes that Viola is dead, and sets off for Orsino’s court.
Act 2, Scene 2
A Love Triangle
Malvolio gives Cesario the ring, repeating Olivia’s insistence that she cannot love the Duke. Viola feels sorry for herself for being in love with the Duke, and sorry for Olivia for being in love with her.
Act 2, Scene 3
Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Feste have a midnight party. Maria and Malvolio tell them off. Malvolio leaves. The three men and Maria hatch a plot to trick Malvolio with forged love letters from Olivia.
Act 2, Scene 4
Men Vs. Women
Orsino guesses that Cesario is in love. Cesario tells him that the ‘woman’ he is in love with is of a similar age and appearance to the Duke. They debate whether women can love as deeply as men. Cesario gives the example of his ‘sister’ who loved a man but never told him. The Duke sends Cesario to Olivia with a jewel.
Act 2, Scene 5
Yellow Stockings and Cross-Garters
Maria drops a letter for Malvolio to find. Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Feste hide in a box-tree to watch. Malvolio finds the letter, assuming it is praising his fashion sense (yellow stockings and cross-garters). Maria invites the men to come and see Malvolio dressed up for Olivia.
Act 3, Scene 1
Olivia Confesses Her Love
Cesario again urges Orsino’s suit to Olivia; Olivia again refuses. Olivia tells Cesario she loves him; he insists that he loves no woman. She will not give up.
Act 3, Scene 2
Sir Andrew Issues a Challenge
Sir Toby encourages Sir Andrew to challenge Cesario to a duel over Olivia.
Act 3, Scene 3
On the Town
Antonio and Sebastian arrive in town. Antonio asks Sebastian to look after his purse and they arrange to meet at a lodging house.
Act 3, Scene 4
Fashion and Fighting
Olivia sends for Malvolio. He comes in yellow stockings and cross-garters. Malvolio quotes from the letter. She thinks he is mad. Maria and Sir Toby are delighted with the success of their plot and have Malvolio locked up. Sir Andrew challenges Cesario to a duel. Antonio joins in, mistaking Cesario for Sebastian. Officers arrest Antonio on behalf of the Duke.
Act 4, Scene 1
Olivia Meets Sebastian
The two knights see Sebastian and fight with him, thinking he is Cesario. Olivia rescues Sebastian and he happily goes with her to her house. He wonders if he is dreaming.
Act 4, Scene 2
Feste Fools Malvolio
Maria dresses Feste up as a priest, Sir Topas. Sir Toby and Maria eavesdrop as Feste alternates between counselling Malvolio as Sir Topas and taunting him as himself.
Act 4, Scene 3
Sebastian and Olivia Marry
Sebastian marvels at his good fortune as he and Olivia prepare to be married by a priest.
Act 5, Scene 1
All’s Well That Ends Well
Antonio is brought in by officers and Cesario tries to convince the Duke not to prosecute him. Antonio expresses his disgust for Sebastian’s behaviour. Cesario pleads ignorance. Olivia, mistaking Cesario for Sebastian, accuses him of breaking a promise. Viola says she is in love with the Duke. Olivia brings in the priest who witnessed their marriage. Orsino is angry with Cesario. Sir Andrew and Sir Toby arrive, claiming they were attacked by Cesario. Sebastian enters and apologises. All is revealed. Viola and Sebastian are reunited. Orsino and Viola are engaged. Malvolio is released from prison and told about the plot against him. He vows revenge. Feste sings.