twelfth night act 1 scene 2 questions and answers

  • Skip to navigation
  • Skip to content

© 2018 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.

Shmoop - We Speak Student

  • Premium
  • Test Prep
  • Learning Guides
  • College
  • Careers
  • Video
  • Teachers
  • Courses
  • Schools

Log in
Sign Up


Twelfth Night, or What You Will

Twelfth Night, or What You Will


by William Shakespeare

  • Events /
  • Act 1, Scene 2


  • Intro
  • Summary

  • Act 1, Scene 1
  • Act 1, Scene 2
  • Act 1, Scene 2 Translation
  • Act 1, Scene 3
  • Act 1, Scene 4
  • Act 1, Scene 5
  • Act 2, Scene 1
  • Act 2, Scene 2
  • Act 2, Scene 3
  • Act 2, Scene 4
  • Act 2, Scene 5
  • Act 3, Scene 1
  • Act 3, Scene 2
  • Act 3, Scene 3
  • Act 3, Scene 4
  • Act 4, Scene 1
  • Act 4, Scene 2
  • Act 4, Scene 3
  • Act 5, Scene 1
  • Modern English
  • Themes
  • Quotes
  • Characters
  • Analysis
  • Questions
  • Photos
  • Quizzes
  • Flashcards
  • Best of the Web
  • Write Essay
  • Teaching
  • Lit Glossary
  • Table of Contents

Twelfth Night, or What You Will Act 1, Scene 2 Summary

  •  BACK
  • NEXT 

  • The scene opens after a terrible ship wreck. Viola, a few sailors, and a (sea) captain arrive on shore and Viola asks where they are. The captain says they’re in Illyria.
  • (Viola’s name isn’t revealed to the play-going audience until Act 5. Readers of the play, however, know her name because it’s in the script and marks the beginning of each of her lines.)
  • Viola is bummed that she’s in Illyria and says her brother is probably in heaven, but she’s holding onto hope that he is alive.
  • The captain tries to comfort Viola and says that, after the ship sank, he saw her brother tie himself to the mast, which had somehow managed to stay afloat.
  • The captain’s description of Sebastian clinging to the ship’s mast also reveals to the audience what went down at sea. (Thank goodness for that, because, until this moment, we’re as confused as Viola. Shakespeare is so crafty that way.) Apparently, when the ship split in two and the passengers and crew went into the water, Viola, being a very scrappy girl, avoided drowning by hanging on to the side of a life boat.
  • Viola gives him some gold for being a nice guy and for cheering her up.
  • The captain, who grew up three hours away from Illyria, tells Viola about the country and dishes a little dirt about its local celebs. The beloved Duke Orsino is a bachelor who’s been trying to hook up with the Countess Olivia. But, Olivia’s so not into him. Her dad died about a year ago and then her brother died shortly after, so she’s sworn off the company of men while she grieves.
  • Viola responds to the gossip by wishing she could disguise her identity and social class for a while by working as Olivia’s servant – at least until she gets her bearings and figures out what to do next.
  • The captain explains why that’s just not going to happen: Olivia isn’t seeing any visitors, not even the Duke.
  • Viola tells the captain that he seems like a trusty fellow, so she’s going to pay him a ton of dough to dress her up like a boy and not tell anyone about it. Since she’s got such a great singing voice, she wants the captain to introduce her to the Duke as a eunuch. The idea is that parading around as a eunuch will guard Viola from suspicion that she’s a woman, while allowing her singing talents to earn her some props in the Duke’s court.
  • (We interrupt this program for a little history snack: Back in the day – as early as 400 A.D. – choir boys were frequently castrated before they hit puberty to preserve their extraordinary singing voices. Castration = no testosterone = a nice soprano, or more accurately, a castrato. We know that castrati sang in the choir at the Sistine Chapel in the 1550s – around the same time that Will Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night. Also, in Italy, castrations for the, um, listening pleasure of choir buffs weren’t outlawed until 1870. Yikes.)
  • The captain agrees to keep his lips zipped while Viola dresses up like a boy and plays “I’m a singing eunuch” at Orsino’s court.
  •  BACK
  • NEXT 

 Cite This Page

Logging out…

Logging out…

You’ve been inactive for a while, logging you out in a few seconds…




Home SparkNotes Shakespeare Study Guides Twelfth Night Quizzes Act II, scenes i–ii Quick Quiz

Twelfth Night

William Shakespeare


  • Plot Overview

  • +

    • Summary & Analysis
    • Act I, scenes i–ii
    • Act I, scenes iii–iv
    • Act I, scene v
    • Act II, scenes i–ii
    • Act II, scenes iii–iv
    • Act II, scene v
    • Act III, scenes i–iii
    • Act III, scene iv
    • Act IV, scenes i–iii
    • Act V, scene i

  • Read the Translation

  • +

    • Characters
    • Character List
    • Viola
    • Orsino and Olivia
    • Malvolio


    • Main Ideas
    • Themes
    • Motifs
    • Symbols
    • Key Facts


    • Quotes
    • Important Quotations Explained


    • Further Study
    • Context
    • Quizzes
    • Study Questions
    • Suggestions for Further Reading


    • Writing Help
    • How to Write Literary Analysis
    • Suggested Essay Topics
    • How to Cite This SparkNote

Share This SparkNote

  • Share on Twitter
← Back to Act 2, scenes i–ii

Act 2, scenes i–ii Quick Quiz

Next: Page 2 of Act II, scenes i–ii  

More Help

  • Read No Fear Twelfth Night
  • Download the iPhone app —now free!
  • Buy the print Twelfth Night SparkNote on
  • Buy the ebook of this SparkNote on
  • Order Twelfth Night at


Take a Study Break!

Macbeth as told in a series of texts

Is your school year going to suck? Read your horoscope for the ENTIRE year

40 questions you should definitely ask in English class

100 of the best colleges, summed up in a single sentence

What to do if you left all of your required summer reading until the last minute

The 7 best times that men were terrified of women in classic lit

The dirty jokes you didn’t catch in Shakespeare’s most popular plays

Snapchats from Greek mythology

18 literary quotes that will break your heart—but only if you’ve read the book

6 popular Shakespeare quotes that Shakespeare didn’t actually write