Twelfth Night The complex plot – full of mistaken identities, misdirected passions, high comedy, low tricks, and unexpected poignancy – begins as a ship, carrying the identical twins Viola and Sebastian is wrecked off the coast of a fictional country, Illyria. Viola is washed ashore on this alien coast and becomes convinced that her beloved brother is dead. She learns that she is near the home of Olivia, a young countess who is also in mourning, for her recently dead father and brother. Accordingly, Olivia has sworn to have no contact with men for seven years, and in particular she is rejecting the amorous advances of the young Duke Orsino Desperate to know how to survive, and to keep the spirit of her twin brother alive, Viola decides to disguise herself as a boy. She transforms herself into Cesario, enters into the service of Orsino and is soon sent to woo Olivia on the Duke’s behalf.
Olivia remains unmoved by Orsino’s attentions but finds herself instead attracted to young Cesario, who in turn begins to fall in love with Orsino. As Viola says, My master loves her dearly; And I, poor monster, fond as much on him. And she, mistaken, seems to dote on me. When Viola’s twin Sebastian suddenly emerges, alive and well, this triangle is complicated almost to a breaking point. While Orsino, Viola, Olivia, and Sebastian are preoccupied with their romantic destinies, Olivia’s household is equally occupied with a power struggle between the ill-tempered, repressive steward, Malvolio, and her boisterous and bibulous uncle, Sir Toby Belch, accompanied by his vacuous, misfit friend, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Olivia’s maid, Maria.
For his own financial ends, Sir Toby encourages Sir Andrew to woo Olivia, while plotting Malvolio’s humiliation. Throughout, Feste, the most enigmatic of entertainers, comes and goes between the two households, sparing no one he meets his barbed insights and his wit. Written in 1600 or 1601, this play is Shakespeare’s last romantic comedy. The comedies which followare much darker. Twelfth Night embodies many of the themes from his earlier comedies. For instance, he employed the device of having a woman fall in love with another woman disguised as a man. In some ways, Twelfth Night can be termed Shakespeare’s apology to Phebe. Whereas Rosalind dominates As You Like it, we have many centers of interest in Twelfth Night.
Orsino continues the theme of overly idealistic love we have seen in Orlando. The setting has a different feeling from Merchant of Venice and As You Like It–two plays in which Shakespeare clearly contrasts the world of reality with some more tranquil environment. Instead (rather like the single setting of Much Ado About Nothing), we see in Twelfth Night the twin centers of power–the estate of Orsino and the estate of Olivia. Illyria itself is a very different place from the Forest of Arden, and before the play began, Antonio has been in battle against the forces of Orsino. The interpretation of Malvolio will be crucial to your overall response to the play.
I would observe that his appearance cross-gartered with yellow stockings almost inevitably delights audiences. But how much sympathy do you give to Malvolio? Unlike Jaques and Duke Frederick, he is an unwilling scapegoat. I propose that the older the actor playing Malvolio, the more seriously and tragically the audience will take him. One must also consider the similarities and differences between two other sorts of characters from As You Like It: Viola vs. Rosalind and Feste vs. Touchstone. English Essays.