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Orsino, the Duke of Illyria, is in love with Countess Olivia even though she has decided to live in seclusion for seven years to mourn the death of her brother. In the meantime a shipwreck on the coast of Illyria casts onto shore two strangers to Illyria, Viola, a young girl, and her twin brother, Sebastian. Having been separated from her brother during the shipwreck, Viola finds herself alone on the coast of Illyria. With the help of the Captain of the ship who had saved her, she disguises herself as a pageboy named Cesario and enters the service of the Duke. The Duke sends her to Olivia with an offer of love and marriage. However, Olivia rejects the offer, and falls in love with Cesario(Viola). Viola however has fallen in love with Duke Orsino, but cannot express her love for him, as her disguise binds her to be a young man.
Antonio, another sea captain, has saved Sebastian, Viola's brother, who decides to go to the capital of Illyria to Duke Orsino's court in the hopes of finding his sister. On reaching the town he meets Antonio who has followed him to protect him in a strange town. Sebastian decides to roam around the town. Antonio gives him his purse, and asks him to meet him at an inn on the outskirts of the town. On his way around town while looking for Sebastian, Antonio comes across Viola getting ready for a duel with Sir Andrew Aguecheck. Sir Andrew Aguecheck is another of Olivia's suitors and a friend of Olivia's uncle, Sir Toby Belch. Thinking Viola to be Sebastian, he tries to protect her but is arrested, and taken away. Viola too goes away.
At the end of the play, Duke Orsino comes personally to Olivia's house accompanied by Viola. Antonio is brought before the Duke, and accuses Viola of ingratitude. Viola objects to these accusations as well as to Olivia's claim of marriage with Cesario (Viola). Just then Sebastian enters. The other characters are amazed to see the similarity between the twins, while Viola and Sebastian are overjoyed to find each other alive and well. Olivia accepts her marriage to Sebastian rather than Cesario, happily. The Duke realizing that Viola loves him, proposes marriage to her, and the proposal is accepted. Maria and Sir Toby also get married.