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All You Need To Know About Shakespeare
Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night  

Romeo And Juliet
Much Ado About Nothing
The Tempest
A Midsummer Night's Dream
As You Like It

Viola- a young aristocratic woman ship wrecked in Illyria
Orsino- a duke of Illyria;  he is in love with Olivia
Olivia- a young rich beautiful noble woman of Illyria

Sebastian- Viola's twin brother
Malvolio- prudish and sour serving man of Olivia
Feste- the fool of Olivia's house hold;  he keeps up the tradition of the wise fool
Sir Toby Belch- Olivia's drunk uncle who lives with her
Maria- a serving woman to Olivia
Sir Andrew Aguecheek- a friend of Sir Toby who tries to woo Olivia
Antonio- the man who rescues Sebastian from the shipwreck  
Fabian-  another drunken friend of Toby;  he helps with the prank on Malvolio

Plot:  This play opens with Orsino, a duke, pining over Olivia.  He loves her, but his declarations of love seem to be falling on deaf ears.  Miserable, Orsino turns to music.  Meanwhile a shipwreck occurs.  Viola and a sea captain seem to be the only ones who have survived.  Viola mourns the death of her twin, Sebastian, but she knows she must get a job soon.  Realizing her position as a woman who has no money or job, she dresses as a male.
    Viola goes to Orsino as a man named Ceasario.  She is employed by Orsino to woo Olivia for him.  Despite the fact that she must pose as a man, she falls in love with Orsino.  In the mean time Olivia falls in love with Viola as Ceasario.  Everyone loves some one else.  It's an absolute mess.
    While all this is going on, we are introduced to the members of Olivia's household.  Feste comments as a fool, but there always seems that there is a deeper wisdom to what he says.  Sir Toby, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Maria all drunkenly cavort about while Malvolio tries to stop them.  Annoyed with Malvolio meddling in their affairs, Sir Toby, Maria, and Aguecheek all decide to play a prank on Malvolio.  Maria plants a letter that appears to be written by Olivia.  Malvolio finds it and believes that it is a love letter from Olivia to him.  The letter tells him to dress in yellow stockings (Olivia hates the colour), cross garter the stockings (a style that  Olivia hates), smile constantly, act snooty, and never explain why he's doing this.  Malvolio complies, and everyone, including Olivia, thinks he's completely crazy.  
    While all this is occurring, Sebastian is rescued from the sea by a pirate named Antonio.  Antonio helps Sebastian find a place to stay, and lends him a bunch of money. Antonio is willing to go into Orsino's domain, even though he and Orsino are grave enemies.  
    Andrew Aguecheek sees Olivia's affection for Ceasario/Viola, so he challenges her to a duel.  Sir Toby only encourages this, because he sees it amusing.  Sebastian pops up and, thinking that he is Ceasario, Aguecheek fights him.  Aguecheek is soundly beaten amidst some confusion, and Olivia arrives on the scene.  She thinks Sebastian is Ceasario, and asks him to marry her.  He doesn't know Olivia and just met her, but she is rich and beautiful and that is incentive enough for Sebastian.  He consents.  At the same time, Antonio is caught by Orsino's officers and is arrested.  He thinks that Viola is Sebastian and begs her for help.  Viola is perplexed.  She cannot help Antonio, and he is furious.  He believes that Sebastian has betrayed him. Viola hears Antonio address her as Sebastian and she has a new found hope that perhaps Sebastian is alive.
    Malvolio has been locked up because he is "crazy", and Maria, Aguecheek, Sir Toby, and Fabian are all highly amused.  They get Feste to dress up as a priest name Sir Topas.  He diagnoses Malvolio as undoubtedly insane. However, in a rare moment of humanity, Sir Toby feels guilty and allows Malvolio to write a letter of protest to Olivia.  
    Viola (still as Ceasario) and Orsino go to Olivia's.  Olivia thinks Ceasario is Sebastian and greets Viola as her husband.  Orsino believes he has been betrayed and is devastated.  Nobody seems to listen to Viola's protests.  Sebastian enters the scene, and everyone becomes confused.  All is explained, and the twins are happily reunited.  Orsino realizes he loves Viola, so that works out too.  Soon it is revealed that Sir Toby has married Maria.  All things would be well, but Malvolio shows up.  Some one has let him out and the practical joke is discovered.  Malvolio walks off angry and cynical.  The rest are left to their happiness.

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.
O spirit of love! how quick and fresh art thou,
That, notwithstanding thy capacity
Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there,
Of what validity and pitch soe'er,
But falls into abatement and low price,
Even in a minute: so full of shapes is fancy
That it alone is high fantastical.
act i;  scene i

By innocence I swear, and by my youth
I have one heart, one bosom and one truth,
And that no woman has; nor never none
Shall mistress be of it, save I alone.
And so adieu, good madam: never more
Will I my master's tears to you deplore.
act iii;  scene i

'If this fall into thy hand, revolve. In my stars I
am above thee; but be not afraid of greatness: some
are born great, some achieve greatness, and some
have greatness thrust upon 'em. Thy Fates open
their hands; let thy blood and spirit embrace them;
and, to inure thyself to what thou art like to be,
cast thy humble slough and appear fresh. Be
opposite with a kinsman, surly with servants; let
thy tongue tang arguments of state; put thyself into
the trick of singularity: she thus advises thee
that sighs for thee. Remember who commended thy
yellow stockings, and wished to see thee ever
cross-gartered: I say, remember. Go to, thou art
made, if thou desirest to be so; if not, let me see
thee a steward still, the fellow of servants, and
not worthy to touch Fortune's fingers. Farewell.
She that would alter services with thee,
act ii;  scene v

Review:  This play is all about disguise, gender crisis and trickery.  Viola must disguise herself  as a man when she arrives in Illyria, Feste poses as a priest, Malvolio is tricked into believing Olivia loves him, Antonio believes that Ceasario is Sebastian, Olivia believes that Ceasario is Sebastian.  Nobody seems to really know who everyone else is at times.  Prominent in the identity conflicts is misrepresentation of gender.  That leads to attractions that in Shakespeare's time were considered strange.  One may question Antonio's devotion to Sebastian.  It does seem a little strange that he would risk everything to go to Illyria with Sebastian.  There are under tones of attraction that go deeper than friendship there.  The same can be said between Ceasario and Orsino.  While Viola is still a "male", Orsino pays compliments about her beauty and such.  When the play is performed well, you can almost see Orsino and Viola falling in love when both are still male in the public eye.  The same goes for Olivia's attraction to Ceasario, although not as much.  Olivia believes that Ceasario is really a man, although she is a woman.  That has some intrigue, but not as important or prominent as the others.  It all becomes okay for Olivia, Viola, and Orsino because they all find heterosexual resolutions to their attractions.  However, Antonio never gets any closure what so ever.  In Shakespeare's world, there is no such place for such feelings, although there is now in today's society.  

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare