Despite being the two "heroines" of the play, caught up in matters of love, Viola and Olivia could not have been more different. We do not immediately meet Olivia, but are introduced to her through Duke Orsino, who describes her breathtaking beauty. Then, Valentine, who has been sent to woo Olivia for the Duke, comes back with the message that Olivia has gone into mourning for seven years during which time she will veil her face and show it to no man.
While it must be remembered that Olivia has lost her entire family within twelve months, it is neither practical nor sensible for a young beauty like Olivia to go into mourning for seven years. Viola is then introduced to the audience, in a completely different scene. She has just landed in an unknown country; she, too believes her brother to be dead, and she has nobody around her who she knows and can rely on.
However, Viola is seen acting resourcefully and practically. She immediately tries to find proof of her brother still being alive, and then makes a plan to work in the Duke's court. She does not, like Olivia, go overboard and begin mourning for her brother. Immediately one can see the contrast between the two: Viola is not the damsel in distress that Olivia comes across as. Here, one must admire Viola for her resourcefulness and courage. After all, she is alone in a strange country, but manages to keep her wits about her.
In matters of love, too, Viola is to be admired. She loves Duke Orsino, and it is true that she is sometimes frustrated at not being able to declare her love for him. However, not only does she refrain from revealing her true identity, she is extremely...