Twelfth Night: by Shakespeare - Summary

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      Twelfth Night is a comedy by William Shakespeare, published in the first folio of 1623. The most direct source was probably Bamabe Rich’s Apolonius and Silla, a story derived from the Italian of Matteo Bandello.

      A shipwreck brings to the sea coast of Illyria a mournful but still resourceful Viola, sadden by the loss in the same week of her identical twin brother, Sebastian, Disguised as a boy, she seeks service in the court of Orsino, Duke of Illyria. Orsino is hopelessly in love with Olivia, a lady who rejects him ostensibly because she is mourning her dead brother. In her role as Cesario. Viola is sent to Olivia’s house with messages of love from Orsino. Olivia is attracted to Viola, who is secretly falling in love with Orsino.

      Unknown to Viola, Sebastian arrives in Illyria with his faithful friend Antonio. The two men are separated, and accidents of identical appearance and identical dress lead, through mistaken identity, to Antonio’s belief that Sebastian has betrayed their friendship to the astonished Sebastian’s marriage to Olivia, and to a near crisis when Orsino believes that Viola has stolen Olivia from him and threatens dire punishment only when, at the plays end, Sebastian and viola are allowed on Stage together do the confusions turn to clarity Orsino is free to marry the loving Viola and Olivia to ‘keep faithful with her new husband, Sebastian.

      In a busy sub-plot. Olivia’s bibulous kinsman sir Toby Belch takes advantage of the gullible part in an inventive practical joke on Olivia’s presumptuous steward, Malvolio, and marries the plot’s investor, Olivia’s lady in waiting Maria.

      Twelfth Night is the most formally satisfying of Shakespeare’s mature comedies. There is some evidence that the part of the worldly-wise clown, Feste, was rewritten to take account of the musical skills of Robert Armin, who had recently replaced Will Kemp that is speculative, but Feste certainly has three of Shakespeare’s finest songs and the lay is uncommonly confident in its use of music.

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