Olivia is an orphaned, gray-eyed countess who has sworn to remain in mourning for seven years after the recent death of her brother.
Though aware of all his qualities, she cannot fall in love with Orsino, despite his pestering her with love letters. She is fond of Feste, relies on Malvolio, and has her patience strained by her uncle Toby. She is nevertheless caring and patient, as demonstrated in her treatment of Malvolio when he appears to lose his mind. She has few illusions about the world, being as well-aware of Malvolio’s defects as of her uncle’s drunkenness as of her own mind. She is ready to fall topsy-turvy in love with Cesario, however, bowled over by his wit and willingness to toss away the script. Despite his rejection of her, she begs him to return, hoping to bring him to love her by degrees – not entirely unlike Orsino. She is quite capable of losing her temper, especially when her uncle is on the verge of fighting with Cesario. She is similarly impulsive enough that when Cesario suddenly starts treating her well, she rushes to find a priest who will marry them in secret. She is therefore deeply hurt when he later denies this and runs away after Orsino, swearing he loves the Duke more than he does her. This confusion is cleared up when it is discovered that the Cesario Olivia fell for is in fact a woman by the name of Viola, while the one who was taken with her and married her is Viola’s twin brother Sebastian. She is somewhat shocked at this, but accepts that Viola, who will now be marrying Orsino, will be her sister.