Twelth Night



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When 'Viola and her identical twin brother Sebastian are shipwrecked off the coast of Illyria, neither knows that the other has survived. Disguising herself as a young man and adopting the name Cesario, 'Viola enters the service of Duke Orsino, with whom she soon falls in love. Sebastian, meanwhile is rescued befriended by Antonio, who is generous enough to lend him a large sum of money.

'Viola's disguise produces unexpected complications. The Duke has been pining with unrequited love for the Countess Olivia, who in an extravagant gesture of mourning for her recently deceased brother, has sworn off men for seven years. But when Viola, as Cesario, presents herself at Olivia's door to deliver Orsino's latest declaration of love, Olivia is much taken with this attractive new messenger. Ruefully, Viola realizes that she has become one corner of an unresolvable romantic triangle: she loves Orsino, Orsino loves Olivia, and now Olivia, it seems, loves her.

Olivia has two permanent house-guests: her drunken uncle, Sir Toby Belch, and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, a suitor for Olivia's hand. Both men heartily approve when the maid, Maria, proposes a practical joke against Olivia's disdainful and self-important steward, Malvolio. Imitating her mistress's handwriting, Maria writes a phony love-letter, advising Malvolio to stop acting like a servant, to smile incessantly, and to wear yellow stockings with fancy garters. When Malvolio struts into Olivia's presence, absurdly dressed and grinning and Maria, promptly have him locked up.

Meanwhile Sir Andrew, jealous of Olivia's obvious interest in Cesario, had been persuaded by Sir Toby to challenge the youth to a duel much to Viola's alarm. She is rescued by Antonio, who naturally thinks Cesario/Viola is his friend Sebastian. When he is recognized as a pirate and arrested, Antonio asks for the money he lent Sebastian, and is deeply hurt when Viola denies all knowledge of it. Later, mistaking Sebastian for Cesario, Sir Andrew renews his assault, only to receive a good thrashing, along with Sir Toby. When Olivia arrives with renewed protestations of love, Sebastian - thoroughly bewildered, but immediately enamored - readily agrees to marry her.

In front of Olivia's house, the Duke and Viola are confronted by Antonio, who insists that Viola is the ingrate to whom he lent money; by Sir Andrew and Sir Toby, who insists she is the bully who has beaten them up; and by Olivia, who insists she is the husband she has just married. Fortunately, at the moment Sebastian arrives on the scene, and Viola's true identity is revealed. Viola accepts the Duke's offer of love, Maria's trick is discovered, and Malvolio, who has been cruelly teased in his cell, is set free. The general air of celebration is tempered only by Malvolio's threat of revenge, and by the clown Feste's final song.

Written by Davia Prosser
Taken from The Stratford Festival Theater

Publication Date







The Masque


Theatre and Performance Studies

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Twelth Night