Orsino never goes to meet Olivia, but sends messages to her through others, and it is the idea of being in love that attracts him. His lack of Self knowledge means that he cannot come to a realistic appreciation of anyone else's characters. It takes most of the play for him to realize that he is really in love with Viola. Olivia believes her desire to withdraw from the world is a result of grief at the loss of her father and brother, whilst in reality it is fear of a cruel world and a desire to lock her away from danger that prompts her. She does not realize this about herself, and so is defenseless against the first person (Viola) who dares to challenge her and present her with a slice of the real world. It is a subsidiary theme of the play that those who do best in life are those who face it and live it to the full, not those who try to hide away. In a tragedy Olivia’s lack of judgment would lead to her death; as it is, she was to suffer, but is allowed to fall in love where that love can be met by someone who will prove a true husband to her.
|image: wiki Act V, Scene i (William Hamilton, c. 1797).|