Twelfth Night(Or What You Will) William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare • Born in 1564 (exact date unknown). Died on 23rd of April, 1616. • Entire body of work consists of 38 plays and 154 sonnets, as well as several poems • Began his career in London as an actor, writer, and part owner of a play company, Lord Chamberlain’s men • Influential – expanded potential of characterization, plot, genre (from comedy to tragedy), and even language in drama
Significance Of The Title • The Twelfth Night after Christmas • The Eve of The Feast of Epiphany • A time of revelry, celebration • Servants would dress up as their masters, men would dress up as women • The cultural origin of the play’s confusion
Twelfth Night Characters Orsino, Duke of Illyria: The ruler of Illyria. Powerful and a gentleman, he is obsessed with gaining the hand in marriage of the fair Lady Olivia, unaware that he himself has a secret admirer. Lady Olivia: A countess of high social standing and great beauty, her hand in marriage is desired by Orsino. She has resigned herself to seven years solitude following the loss of first her father and then her much loved brother. Spurning love in all its forms, she shuns Orsino's romantic overtures, but at the sight of Cesario, falls deeply in love, causing many problems for Cesario (really Viola). She later marries Sebastian, who looking exactly like Cesario, also steals Lady Olivia's heart.
Viola and disguised as a man, Cesario: The secret admirer of Orsino, Viola comes to work for Orsino when having been shipwrecked; she disguises herself as a man, and works for the Duke. Much favored by the Duke, Viola is entrusted to convey the Duke's love to Countess Olivia. This later causes problems for Viola, who serves her master faithfully, despite desiring Orsino for herself and being the unwitting (and unwilling!) target of Countess Olivia's affections. Viola has a brother, called Sebastian who is identical to her male appearance as Cesario; she fears that he died when their ship broke up at the beginning of the play. Sebastian: Viola's twin brother. When the ship he and Viola were traveling on sinks, he fears his sister dead, as her sister does of him. Frequently mistaken for Cesario, Sebastian eventually is reunited with his sister, earlier taking the hand the willing Countess Olivia as his wife. Antonio: A Sea Captain by trade, Antonio is a man with many enemies in the Duke Orsino's court. Nonetheless he accompanies Sebastian in his travels. Memorable for the expression, "That danger shall seem sport...." (Act II, Scene I).
Sir Toby Belch, Uncle to Olivia: As Olivia's uncle, Sir Toby passes away his time drinking in Olivia's house with fellow drinker Sir Andrew Aguecheek, much to the displeasure of Olivia, her servant Maria and Olivia's uptight and humorless steward Malvolio. A great schemer of practical jokes, Sir Toby enjoys playing tricks on Malvolio, his friend Sir Andrew and anyone else who captures his fleeting attention. Sir Andrew Aguecheek: The drinking partner of Sir Toby, he too pushes Lady Olivia's patience and hospitality with his continuously loud and lewd behavior. Described by Sir Toby as being "as tall a man as any's in Illyria", Sir Andrew is not overly intelligent, Sir Andrew like Sir Toby having little love for the annoying Malvolio and is party to a practical joke against him. Sir Andrew however is greatly valued by Sir Toby since he is rich, earning some "three thousand ducats a year." Unwittingly, Sir Andrew is also the pawn in Sir Toby's plot making. Naive by nature, he is manipulated by Sir Toby into pursuing Lady Olivia since this will maintain Sir Toby's drinking lifestyle. Later Sir Andrew is manipulated into challenging Cesario, who becomes a threat to Sir Toby's plans.
Malvolio: As Lady Olivia's steward, Malvolio sees himself in a somewhat grandiose light, imagining Olivia to love him and wishing to be more than his current rank. This and his continuous disapproval of Sir Toby and Sir Andrew's drinking, earn him their hatred and he quickly becomes their pawn in a complex romantic ruse. Maria: Lady Olivia's woman, she is patient and tactful where Malvolio is brash and insulting. She too, disapproves of Sir Toby and company's drinking but tries tactfully to subdue their boisterous spirits. Her dislike of Malvolio leads her to create an elaborate romantic trick on Malvolio, which she also uses to calm down Sir Toby and company, who are now enthusiastic conspirator's in Malvolio's humiliation. Feste: Referred to in the text as "The Clown" and a servant to Olivia, Feste like so many of Shakespeare's fools, speaks the truth from the source of recognized foolishness. He is much appreciated by Sir Toby, who spends many hours with him.
Fabian: A servant of Lady Olivia's, he too dislikes Malvolio, and also participates enthusiastically in Malvolio's downfall. Valentine and Curio: Gentlemen attending Orsino at the start of the play. A Sea Captain: A friend to Viola, he helps her to disguise herself as Cesario. He initially reports Sebastian dead.
Summary • Begins with the separation of Viola and Sebastian by shipwreck. Both fear for the other’s death, but they aren’t sure. • Viola enters the service of Orsino, her disguise being a male eunuch servant, Cesario. • Orsino tasks her with wooing the countess Olivia. • Love triangle sets in.
Love Is In The Air Orsino Olivia Viola Sebastian Antonio Malvolio
Summary • Sebastian ends up in Orsino’s land, and is quickly mistaken for Viola/Cesario. • Confusion ensues, ending with the discovery of the twins, and the reuniting of Viola and Sebastian. • Olivia loves Sebastian, Orsino loves Viola, nobody loves Malvolio.
Twelfth Night Act by Act Breakdown
Duke Orsino’s Palace Act 1, scene 1
The scene opens at the court of the Duke Orsino who is the leader of Illyria. Other lords surround him, and music plays in the background. • As his musicians play, the Duke speaks of love and says if music is the food that sustains love he wants to hear enough to make him sick of it, so he will no longer want to hear any and no longer be in love. • He talks to a lord named Curio about his passionate love of the countess Olivia. Olivia's brother, whom she was extremely close with, recently died and she was in mourning. • The duke's gentleman, Valentine, tells him that the countess is in mourning and will not accept any proposals. Orsino is saddened by this, but will not give up his chase of her.
Quotation If music be the food of love, play on,Give me excess of it that, surfeiting, The appetite may sicken and so die.That strain again, it had a dying fall.O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound That breathes upon a bank of violets,Stealing and giving odour. Enough, no more,’Tis not so sweet now as it was before. If it’s true that music makes people more in love, keep playing. Give me too much of it, so I’ll get sick of it and stop loving. Play that part again! It sounded sad. Oh, it sounded like a sweet breeze blowing gently over a bank of violets, taking their scent with it. That’s enough. Stop. It doesn’t sound as sweet as it did before.
[Music ceases]O spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thouThat, notwithstanding thy capacityReceiveth as the sea, naught enters there,Of what validity and pitch so e’er,But falls into abatement and low priceEven in a minute! So full of shapes is fancyThat it alone is high fantastical. (I.i.1–15) Oh, love is so restless! It makes you want everything, but it makes you sick of things a minute later, no matter how good they are. Love is so vivid and fantastical that nothing compares to it. (Duke Orsino)
Explanation • The play’s opening speech includes one of its most famous lines, as the unhappy, lovesick Orsino tells his servants and musicians, “If music be the food of love, play on.” • Orsino asks for the musicians to give him so much musical love-food that he will overdose (“surfeit”) and cease to desire love any longer. • Through these words, Shakespeare introduces the image of love as something unwanted, something that comes upon people unexpectedly and that is not easily avoided. • This image is complicated by Orsino’s comment about the relationship between romance and imagination: “So full of shapes is fancy / That it alone is high fantastical,” he says, relating the idea of overpowering love (“fancy”) to that of imagination (that which is “fantastical”). • Through this connection, the play raises the question of whether romantic love has more to do with the reality of the person who is loved or with the lover’s own imagination. For Orsino and Olivia, both of whom are willing to switch lovers at a moment’s notice, imagination often seems more powerful than reality.
Quotation O, she that hath a heart of that fine ... frameTo pay this debt of love but to a brother,How will she love, when the rich golden shaftHath kill'd the flock of all affections elseThat live in her (1.1.4) EXPLANATION • Orsino reveals a skewed vision of desire. The first thing to note is that Orsino has a hard time wrapping his brain around the idea that Olivia isn't interested in him. He is also completely dismissive of the notion that Olivia could love so intensely a (dead) brother. Of course, Orsino does recognize Olivia's capacity for "love," but he mistakenly believes that she will somehow channel all of her energy into a relationship with him.
EXPLANATION • It's also interesting to note that the Duke uses another violent metaphor to describe the act of falling in love as a kind of violent piercing of the flesh (by Cupid's arrow or, "golden shaft"). We can also compare this passage to other moments in the play where love is associated with hunting, which can also involve the use of arrows. See 1.1.2 and also where Olivia compares herself to an animal, or "prey" (3.1.8).
The sea-coast Act 1, scene 2
The woman Viola who is traveling with her brother is shipwrecked on Illyria. • Viola's brother is missing from the shipwreck but they think he may be in dead. • While talking to the captain of the ship who tells her about the country, Viola decides to become a servant in the Duke's household. The captain agrees to help her and keep her identity a secret.
Quotation Be you his eunuch, and your mute I'll be:... When my tongue blabs, then let mine eyes not see. (1.2.10) EXPLANATION • Viola's high-pitched voice could potentially expose her as a woman when she disguises herself as a boy. The solution? Pretend to be a singing eunuch (a castrated man – if the genitals are removed before puberty, the voice remains high-pitched, which was pleasing to many 16th-century music lovers). What really interests us about this passage, however, is the way the sea captain plays with the idea of bodily mutilation when he says he'll be Viola's "mute" (one who is unable to "blab" if his tongue has been removed). He also implies that his eyes should be put out as punishment if he exposes Viola's secret, which is that she never has been castrated.
Olivia’s house Act 1, scene 3
In the house of Countess Olivia, her kinsmen Sir Toby talks to Olivia's handmaiden, Maria, about his living habits. • The Lady Olivia is not happy about the way he is living, or about his friend Sir Andrew who he brought in to court her. Sir Andrew then enters and Maria subtly makes fun of him, though he does not catch it. She leaves, and Toby talks with Andrew about courting Olivia. Andrew does not think he has much of a chance but Toby presses the suit.
Quotation There is a fair behavior in thee, captain;And ... though that nature with a beauteous wallDoth oft close in pollution, yet of theeI will believe thou hast a mind that suitsWith this thy fair and outward character. (1.2.10) EXPLANATION • As Viola determines to disguise her identity by cross-dressing as a boy servant ("Cesario"), she considers the sea captain's trustworthiness. This passage is interesting for the way Viola describes the way some people can seem "fair" in their outward behaviour and demeanour while concealing, like a "beauteous wall," an inner nature that may be "pollut[ed]." Viola's speech sets the tone for a play intent on thinking about whether or not what's outside matches what's on the inside.
Duke Orsino’s Palace Act 1, scene 4
Viola, dressed as a boy Cesario, has become trusted servant for Orsino. She is talking to Valentine about her position when Orsino comes in and asks her to go to the house of Lady Olivia to woo her for him. Viola thinks that it is futile, but agrees to go.
Quotation Dear lad, believe it;For they shall yet belie ... thy happy years,That say thou art a man: Diana's lipIs not more smooth and rubious; thy small pipeIs as the maiden's organ, shrill and sound,And all is semblative a woman's part. (1.4.5) EXPLANATION • Orsino's sensual description of "Cesario's" mouth ("lip") throat ("small pipe"), and voice ("maiden's organ") is made even more provocative because the Duke describes a very attractive and androgynous boy actor, who is playing the role of a young woman, who is cross-dressed as a boy. The passage is also an erotic description of the anatomical features of female genitalia. Orsino nicely captures the gender confusion in an unintentionally ironic description of his young page. In other words, Orsino isn't exactly aware of it, but his description reveals that "Cesario's" sex appeal is a combination of both masculine and feminine characteristics.
Quotation I'll do my bestTo woo your lady:... Asideyet, a barful strife!Whoe'er I woo, myself would be his wife. (1.4.7) EXPLANATION • Viola's sudden announcement that she's smitten with Duke Orsino may come as a shock. How could Viola fall for Orsino so quickly when she's only been working for him for three days? Also, what does Viola see in this guy anyway? After all, Orsino comes off as a moody, self-centered guy who lounges around and spouts off about deer hunting metaphors and flowers all day. It's easy to dismiss the question by saying that Viola's love for Orsino is totally unrealistic but is nevertheless important to the plot. Does Viola fall for Orsino because he's a kind of passionate poet? Does this make her just as silly and foolish as Orsino, Olivia, and Malvolio? Viola's a sharp girl. Does the play seem to suggest that love and desire transform even the brightest and shrewdest people into sappy fools?
Olivia’s house Act 1, scene 5
The jester, Feste, in Lady Olivia's house enters, and Maria inquires where he has been. She also tells him that he should beware of being late because it displeases his mistress. • Lady Olivia enters with Malvolio and dismisses the fool, but Feste refuses to go calling her the fool. He explains that she should not be mourning her dead brother because he is in heaven. • She asks Malvolio his opinion and he says she should not listen to the fool. She laughs at the opinions of the fool when Maria enters and tells her a young man is there to see her from Count Orsino. • Sir Toby however is blocking the gate and she sends Malvolio to handle the situation. Toby enters drunk and then leaves. Olivia, upset with her cousin, sends the fool to take care of him.
Malvolio returns saying that the young man refuses to leave until he speaks with Olivia. After many questions, Olivia agrees to speak with him. • Viola enters dressed of course as Cesario, and begins to give a speech about her beauty. Lady Olivia is not interested in hearing it, and Viola asks to speak with her in private. She concedes, and the servants exit. Viola then tells her of her master's love, but Lady Olivia states that she can and will not love him back. She tells Viola who she is, and the girl dodges the question. • When Viola leaves, the Lady Olivia ponders who he is. Malvolio enters again, and she tells him to go after the departed messenger and tell him to come back the next day if he wants reasons for why she cannot love the count. She also gives him a ring and tells him to return it to the young man, because he left it there.
Quotation Not yet old enough for a man, nor young ... enough fora boy; as a squash is before 'tis a peascod, or acooling when 'tis almost an apple: 'tis with himin standing water, between boy and man. (1.5.7) EXPLANATION • Here, Malvolio implies that "Cesario" isn't quite ripe enough to be a "man." He compares "him" to a "squash" (an undeveloped peapod) and a "codling" (an unripe apple) in his attempt to explain away "Cesario's" androgynous good looks. Here, Malvolio attributes "Cesario's" seemingly undeveloped body to prepubescent youthfulness.
Quotation Thy tongue, thy face, thy limbs, actions and ... spirit,Do give thee five-fold blazon: not too fast:soft, soft!Unless the master were the man. How now!Even so quickly may one catch the plague? (1.5.48) EXPLANATION • Olivia seems surprised that she has fallen in love with "Cesario," who has been sent to woo her on behalf of Duke Orsino. (Remember, she has sworn off men for seven years while she mourns for her dead brother.) Here, Olivia's comparison of falling in love to catching the bubonic "plague" is not unlike other passages we've seen that align desire with illness and injury. (There's also a bawdy reference to venereal disease, which was rampant in Shakespeare's London.)
Quotation Methinks I feel this youth's perfectionsWith an invisible ... and subtle stealthTo creep in at mine eyes. Well, let it be. (1.5.48) EXPLANATION • Olivia's use of the term "stealth" (the action of theft, plunder, or underhanded deception) is interesting because it suggests that falling in love makes one a kind of victim. In this way, Olivia suggests that "Cesario" has robbed her of something (her heart, her well being, etc.). The audience is also aware that Viola's deceptive disguise plays an important role in Olivia's physical attraction to "Cesario's" "tongue, face, limbs," etc., which gives new meaning to the concept of "Cesario's" "stealth," or underhandedness.
The sea-coast Act 2, scene 1
Viola's brother Sebastian is saved by a sailor named Antonio. • Sebastian is devastated because he thinks his beloved twin has drowned. • He tells Antonio that he plans to go to Orsino's court, and Antonio offers to be his servant, but Sebastian refuses him.
A street Act 2, scene 2
Malvolio finds Cesario and gives him the message and the ring. • Viola is confused because she never gave the Countess a ring, but takes it anyway. • She figures out that Lady Olivia has fallen in love with her while she, herself, has fallen for Orsino. • She does not know how to undo the "love knots" which have become tangled, and she curses her disguise for causing such problems.
Quotation Disguise, I see, thou art a wickedness,Wherein the ... pregnant enemy does much.[…]How will this fadge? my master loves her dearly;And I, poor monster, fond as much on him; (2.2.3) EXPLANATION • When Viola learns that Olivia is in love with "Cesario," she blames her "disguise," as though the act of cross-dressing is solely to blame for Olivia's attraction to her.
Olivia’s house Act 2, scene 3
Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and the Fool are having a late night party. Maria enters and tries to make them be quiet,. • Malvolio comes and threatens to kick them out if they do not behave better. • In defense to Malvolio's attitude, Maria decides to forge a letter from Olivia telling Malvolio that she loves him. Toby, Andrew, and Feste think it is a wonderful idea, and she leaves to put her plan into action. • Sir Andrew reveals his bad financial state to Sir Toby, saying that he has to marry Olivia or he will be completely broke.
Maria’s description of Malvolio (2.3.146-153) The devil a puritan that he is, or anything constantly, but a time-pleaser; an affectioned ass that cons state without book and utters it by great swarths; the best persuaded of himself, so crammed, as he thinks, with excellencies, that it is his grounds of faith that all that look on him love him. And on that vice in him will my revenge find notable cause to work. He isn’t really that pure and good. He’s just a conceited flatterer. He’s a pretentious guy who aspires to speak and act like nobility. He’s proud, and he thinks he’s so stuffed full of wonderful qualities that everyone loves him. That’s the weakness I’ll use to get revenge on him.
Quotation I will drop in his way some obscure epistles oflove; (2.3.8) EXPLANATION • Maria's plan to forge a love letter (in order to trick Malvolio into believing Olivia loves him) furthers the play's notion that "epistles of love" are not to be trusted. Maria's forged letter is not so different from Duke Orsino's messages for Olivia (which aren't necessarily forged but are contrived nonetheless).
Maria’s Plan I will drop in his way some obscure epistles of love, wherein by the color of his beard, the shape of his leg, the manner of his gait, the expressure of his eye, forehead, and complexion,he shall find himself most feelingly personated. I can write very like my lady your niece: on a forgotten matter we can hardly make distinction of our hands. … Sport royal, I warrant you. I know my physic will work with him. I will plant you two, and let the fool make a third, where he shall find the letter. Observe his construction of it. I’ll drop some mysterious love letters in his path. He’ll think they’re addressed to him, because they’ll describe the color of his beard, the shape of his legs, the way he walks, and the expression on his face. I can make my handwriting look just like Lady Olivia’s: she and I can’t tell the difference between each other’s handwriting. … It’s going to be fun, I promise. I know my medicine will work on him. I’ll have you two hide—and the fool too—right where he’ll find the letter. Watch his reaction.
Duke Orsino’s Character delineated through metaphor:(2.4.73-79) FOOL: Now, the melancholy god protect thee, and the tailor make thy doublet of changeable taffeta, for thy mind is a very opal. I would have men of such constancy put to sea, that their business might be everything and their intent everywhere, for that’s it that always makes a good voyage of nothing. I’ll pray for the god of sadness to protect you, sir. And I hope your tailor will make you an outfit out of fabric that changes color, because your mind is like an opal that changes colors constantly. Men as wonderfully changeable as you are should all go drifting on the sea, where they can do whatever comes their way, and go wherever the current takes them. Those are the men whose trips are always successful.
Duke contradicts himself and confirms the Fool’s assessment of him: (2.4.29-34 & 94-104) Too old by heaven. Let still the woman take An elder than herself. So wears she to him, So sways she level in her husband’s heart. For, boy, however we do praise ourselves, Our fancies are more giddy and unfirm, More longing, wavering, sooner lost and worn, Than women’s are. . . . Then let thy love be younger than thyself, Or thy affection cannot hold the bent. For women are as roses, whose fair flower Being once displayed, doth fall that very hour. (2.4.29-34 ) That’s definitely too old. A woman should always pick an older man. That way she’ll adjust herself to what her husband wants, and the husband will be happy and faithful to her. Because however much we like to brag, boy, the truth is that we men change our minds a lot more than women do, and our desires come and go a lot faster than theirs. … So find someone younger to love, or you won’t be able to maintain your feelings. Women are like roses: the moment their beauty is in full bloom, it’s about to decay.
Duke contradicts himself and confirms the Fool’s assessment of him: (2.4.29-34 & 94-104) There is no woman’s sides Can bide the beating of so strong a passion As love doth give my heart. No woman’s heart So big, to hold so much. They lack retention. Alas, their love may be called appetite, No motion of the liver, but the palate, That suffer surfeit, cloyment, and revolt; But mine is all as hungry as the sea, And can digest as much. Make no compare Between that love a woman can bear me And that I owe Olivia. (2.4.94-104 ) No woman is strong enough to put up with the kind of intense passion I feel. No woman’s heart is big enough to hold all my love. Women don’t feel love like that—love is as shallow as appetite for them. It has nothing to do with their hearts, just their sense of taste. They eat too much and get indigestion and nausea. But my love’s different. It’s as all-consuming and insatiable as the sea, and it can swallow as much as the sea can. Don’t compare a woman’s love for a man with my love for Olivia.