Antonio’s love for Sebastian becomes so strong, it appears romantic in nature. One possible reason for Antonio’s attachment is that he rescued Sebastian and nursed him back to health. As Antonio explains, “His life I gave him and did thereto add / My love, without retention or restraint” (5.1.). Sebastian also seems to be very handsome and charming, as evidenced by Olivia’s intense attraction to him, which perhaps increases Antonio’s fondness. Because of his affection for Sebastian and desire to be close to him, Antonio follows Sebastian to Orsino’s court even though he acknowledges that “I have many enemies in Orsino’s court” (2.1.). As a consequence for helping Sebastian, Antonio later accepts his arrest at the hands of Orsino’s men, stating “This comes with seeking you / But there’s no remedy” (3.4.). We never learn the exact motivation for Antonio’s deep attachment to Sebastian, but Antonio is evidently in love.
Maria, Sir Toby, and Sir Andrew deceive Malvolio into believing that Olivia is in love with him by forging love letters from Olivia to Malvolio. Maria comes up with the idea of tricking uptight Malvolio after he threatens to tell Olivia about Sir Toby and Sir Andrew’s drunken fun. Malvolio is indeed fooled by the forged love letters, but the deception is only possible because of Malvolio’s arrogance and ambition. He quickly starts to imagine other signs of Olivia’s fondness for him, noting that “she uses me with a more exalted respect than anyone else that follows her” (2.5.). Malvolio fantasizes about living a luxurious life and bossing around individuals like Sir Toby and Maria when he becomes Olivia’s husband. While Malvolio is presented as naïve and egotistical for believing that Olivia could be in love with him, he becomes an increasingly pitiable figure as he follows the directions in the forged love letters and makes a fool of himself to get Olivia’s attention.
At the start of the play, Olivia mourns her brother’s death. Valentine explains to Orsino why Olivia won’t return Orsino’s romantic feelings, claiming that Olivia has vowed to wear a dark veil for seven years so no one can see her face or marry her. Later, Olivia herself tells the clown Feste that she is mourning her brother’s death, and that grief makes her melancholy. The loss of Olivia’s brother creates a thematic link between the love she felt for her brother, and the deep fraternal love between the twins Sebastian and Viola. However, Olivia’s excessive and melodramatic mourning shows that she is somewhat self-indulgent and preoccupied with her own feelings. The disorderly behavior in Olivia’s household (drunkenness, practical jokes, and general chaos) possibly comes from Olivia indulging in grief rather than upholding her responsibilities.
At the end of the play, Orsino finds out that the character he has known as Cesario is actually a young woman named Viola. Almost immediately, Orsino suggests he and Viola get married. This decision is particularly striking because Orsino has spent the whole play professing his love for Olivia but now abruptly transfers his affections to someone else, proving that his “fancies are more giddy and unfirm” than society’s strict definition of proper attraction (2.4.). Orsino seems interested in marrying Viola for two reasons. The first reason is that he has already been impressed by the devotion and fidelity she showed while disguised as his page. Second, Orsino tells Viola that her service was “So much against the mettle of your sex / So far beneath your soft and tender breeding” (5.1.). Orsino is impressed by Viola’s courage and intelligence, especially once he learns she’s a woman of nobility.
Maria impresses Sir Toby and Sir Andrew by engineering a clever idea to trick Malvolio, whom none of them like because Malvolio spoils their fun. After Maria proposes her plan to forge love letters to Malvolio from Olivia, Sir Andrew praises Maria by saying “she’s a good wench” (2.3.). Later, Sir Toby states that he is so impressed with Maria’s trick he wants to marry her, with Sir Andrew agreeing. Sir Toby does in fact go on to marry Maria. Maria’s plan to trick Malvolio might not be very kind, but the plan is intelligent, shrewd, and funny. By marrying Maria, Sir Toby acknowledges that he admires these qualities in a woman, mirroring Orsino’s admiration of Viola’s courage and intelligence. The plotlines around both Maria and Viola show that assertive, risk-taking female characters can win the respect of men around them.