In the city of Illyria, the kind and noble bachelor, Duke Orsino, is "hounded" day and night by his desire for the beautiful, wealthy and virtuous countess, Olivia,
O, when mine eyes did see Olivia first, Methought she purged the air of pestilence!
Meanwhile, on the coast of Illyria, a great shipwreck has washed ashore several survivors, including the ship's Captain, a number of sailors, and the young woman Viola, twin sister to brother Sebastian. To Viola's dismay, although Sebastian was also on the ship, he is nowhere to be found, but the kind Captain assures Viola that there is a chance her brother survived.
I saw your brother, Most provident in peril, bind himself, Courage and hope both teaching him the practice, To a strong mast that lived upon the sea.
Cesario, Thou know'st no less but all; I have unclasped to thee the book even of my secret soul.
In a new land and on her own, Viola determines to dress as a boy and work in the service of the kind Duke, whose reputation precedes him. The Captain vows to help Viola with her disguise and keep the secret of her identity for as long as necessary. Viola, disguised as Cesario, becomes fast friends with the Duke.
Not only friends, but while Orsino is pining after Olivia, whom Viola is attempting to woo on Orsino's behalf, Viola is falling for Orsino-and Olivia is falling for Viola (Cesario).
Whoe'er I woo, myself would be his wife.
During these love-laced days, Olivia's estate is rife with other shenanigans, including a prank played on her obnoxious steward, Malvolio, by her