Biographical information about the author:
William Shakespeare, born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England, was an English poet and playwright. Shakespeare was believed to have been educated at the King’s New School in Stratford about a quarter-mile from his home. At the age of 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway. The ceremony may have been arranged in some haste because six months after the marriage Anne gave birth to a daughter named Susanna.
About two years later they had twins, a boy and a girl, and the boy died of unknown causes at the age of 11. It is not known when Shakespeare started writing but several of his plays were on the London stage by 1592. Shakespeare divided his time between London and Stratford during this time of his career. In 1599 he moved to Southwark while his company constructed the Global Theatre there. After 1610, Shakespeare wrote very few okays before his death on April 23, 1616. Historical information about the period of publication:
Queen Elizabeth was in rein during this time period from 1559-1603. She was very fond of Shakespeare and loved his works. The inspiration of the play Twelfth Night was more than likely influenced by the queen wanting a play related to the holiday season. Twelfth Night is a Christian holiday that takes place on the 12th day after Christmas. On this day the roles in society are flipped. Kings and queens dress up as peasants and men and women dress up as each other. At the beginning of the Twelfth Night festival a cake that contains a bean is eaten. The person who finds the bean would be the ruler of the feast. Midnight marks the end of their rule and everything goes back to normal. Characteristics of the genre:
A Shakespearean Comedy normally has a happy ending that involves marriages between the unmarried characters. There tends to be a greater emphasis on situations than characters; there is almost always a clever servant; multiple, intertwining plots; and the main issue in Twelfth Night, deception among characters. Plot Summary:
After a huge storm at sea, a young woman named Viola finds herself washed up on a shore with the ship’s captain. Here she grieves the loss of her twin brother Sebastian who she believes died in the storm. The Captain informs her that they are in Illyria and he helps Viola disguise herself so that she may go to a man named Duke Orsino and become his servant. During this 3 month period Viola, now known as Cesario, has to persuade Lady Olivia, the woman Duke Orsino is in love with, to marry him or at least take some interest. Olivia is also grieving her brother’s death and does not want to see any man that Orsino sends to her.
However, she takes a liking to Cesario and falls in love with him. Unfortunately, Cesario (Viola) is now in love with Orsino, who loves Olivia, who loves Cesario. A crazy love triangle. Meanwhile, we meet other people in Olivia’s court such as her uncle Sir Toby Belch; the maid Maria; Toby’s friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek who is trying to court Olivia; Feste, Olivia’s fool; and Malvolio, the arrogant and self-centered steward of Olivia’s household. Since Malvolio likes to ruin the other’s fun, Maria forges a letter, supposedly from Olivia, to make Malvolio think Olivia is in love with him.
Malvolio finds this letter, thinking it is for him, and, wanting to marry Olivia, follows its commands of dressing in yellow stocking, cross-gartering, to smile constantly, and to not explain his actions to no one. Once Olivia sees him behaving so strangely she thinks that he has gone mad. Meanwhile, Sebastian, who we find to still be alive but believes his sister Viola to be dead, arrives in Illyria along with his friend Antonio. Antonio has been taking care for Sebastian since the shipwreck and is passionately (and some think sexually) attached to Sebastian; so much so that he follows him to Orsino’s court, in spite of the fact that he and Orsino are old enemies.
Once Sir Andrew sees that Olivia has taken a liking to Cesario he challenges Cesario to a duel. Sir Toby loves to see Sir Andrew make a fool of himself so he encourages Sir Andrew to continue. However, when Sebastian-who looks just like his disguised sister Viola-, appears he ends up fighting Sir Andrew and Sir Toby because they think he is Cesario. Olivia shows up seeing what is going on and asks Sebastian, who she thinks is Cesario, to marry her. Sebastian is very confused because he has never seen her before but he says that he will go with her to be married because of her wealth and beauty.
Meanwhile, Antonia has been arrested and begs Cesario to help him because he thinks Cesario is Sebastian. Viola says she does not know who Antonio is and Antonio is taken away while he says that Sebastian has betrayed him. We soon learn that Malvolio has been locked away in a small dark room and although the group has tormented him throughout his time in there, Sir Toby allows Malvolio to send a letter to Olivia asking to be released. Orsino now decides to go visit Olivia and he brings Viola (still disguised as Cesario) and other men in his court. Olivia states that Cesario is her new husband when in reality it is her brother Sebastian.
Orsino is furious but then Sebastian appears and everyone is awestruck. Viola and Sebastian are reunited and Orsino can officially express his love for Viola now that he knows she is a woman. We also figure out that Sir Toby and Maria have been married. Finally, Malvolio shows up and the trick that took place on him is revealed. Malvolio storms off saying he will seek revenge and he leaves everyone else happy and joyful.
Describe the author’s style:
Shakespeare’s first plays were written in the same style as those who were also writing at that period of time. However, he soon began to use the traditional styles in his own unique way. Most say that Twelfth Night is one a Shakespeare’s most poetical and musical plays. This basically means that Shakespeare decided to make some of the major characters sound more like amazing poets than average people. In this case he is using them to make fun of the shallowness of love poetry. An example that demonstrates the style:
“ Away before me to sweet beds of flowers:
Love-thoughts lie rich when canopied with bowers.” (1.1.4) Memorable Quotations
“And all is semblative a woman’s part.”
Orsino is telling Cesario (Viola) to woo Lady Olivia and he tells him that he
is much like a woman and therefore will be more appealing than if he went himself. “Oh Time, thou must untangle this, not I. It is too hard a knot for me t’ untie!” Viola realizes the love triangle she has gotten herself into and says that only time can fix it. “I hate ingratitude more in a man Than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness, Or any taint of voice whose strong corruption Inhabits our frail blood.” Cesario is defending himself against Antonio who is charging Cesario of ingratitude. “What relish is in this? How runs the stream…If if be thus to dream, still let me sleep!” Sebastian is very confused but yet happy about Olivia wanting to marry him. He has never seen her before but she is in love with him. “Thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges”
Significance of the opening scene
Twelfth Night takes place in an imaginary place called Illyria. Illyria also happens to correspond to a place on the Adriatic coast which most Elizabethans knew nothing about and most people from London have never been there. This makes it the perfect location for the mysteries of this play.
Viola decided to make a new life in this unfamiliar Dukedom. The same thing that draws her to Illyria, Shakespeare uses that to draw the audience in; the mystery, romance, and dreaminess of far-off places. One strange setting would be when the audience sees the out of control crew at Olivia’s home and also her weird behavior. Another setting that seemed to be over the top would be Duke Orsino at his home listening to his live band while lying of the couch daydreaming about being in love. In the opening scene the audience meets Duke Orsino and we see that the woman he loves, Lady Olivia, is grieving over the death of her brother therefore she has decided not to get married for another seven years.
Orsino, being obsessed with Olivia, wants to just lie around on beds of flowers, listening to music and dreaming of Olivia. This shows the audience of the persistence Orsino has and although he seems to be deeply in love with Olivia he will quickly change his mind. Meanwhile, on the Illyrian sea coast Viola and her twin brother Sebastian are in a shipwreck. Viola was found and rescued but she doesn’t know where her brother is. Although the captain tells Viola that Sebastian may still be alive she does not believe it to be so. In the meantime, however, she needs to find a way to support herself in Illyria. This leads her to Orsino’s court and thus the beginning of what will soon be a crazy love triangle. Symbols
Significance of the ending/closing scene
A pearl- A token of love; romantic attachment
Darkness of Malvolio’s Prison- insanity; madness
Changes of Clothing- class distinction; power, change in gender During the closing scene everyone finds out that Cesario is really Viola (a female) and that Sebastian is the “real man” of the family. Olivia finds out that she was in love with a woman but ended up marrying her twin brother on accident. Of course she doesn’t mind because she is happy regardless. Duke Orsino is glad because he can now express the feelings he has been having for Cesario because he is now Viola. Most of Shakespeare’s comedies end in a “happily ever after” way so he had to find some kind of what to bring happiness to the end of this play. The happiness lies in the marriage of Olivia and Sebastian, the secret marriage of Sir Toby and Maria, and the marriage of Duke Orsino and Viola. Possible Themes
Love out of Suffering- Despite the happy ending, Shakespeare shows that love can cause pain Uncertainty of Gender- Viola disguising herself as a man; Olivia ends up being in love with a woman, even if she thinks Viola is a man; Orsino comments on Cesario’s beauty, which suggests that he is attracted to Viola even though she is still in disguise.