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Twelfth Night

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Twelfth Night is one of the most popular of Shakespeare's plays in the modern theatre, and this edition places particular emphasis on its theatrical qualities throughout. Peopled with lovers misled either by disguises or their own natures, it combines lyrical melancholy with broad comedy.

The introduction analyses its many views of love and the juxtaposition of joy and melancholy, while the detailed commentary pays particular attention to its linguistic subtleties.

Music is particularly important in Twelfth Night , and this is the only modern edition to offer material for all the music required in a performance. James Walker has re-edited the existing music from the original sources, and where noe exists has composed settings compatible with the surviving originals.

About the For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

256 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1601

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William Shakespeare

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William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "The Bard"). His surviving works consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language, and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon. Scholars believe that he died on his fifty-second birthday, coinciding with St George’s Day.

At the age of 18 he married Anne Hathaway, who bore him three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Between 1585 and 1592 he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part owner of the playing company the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later known as the King's Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare's private life survive, and there has been considerable speculation about such matters as his sexuality, religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others.

Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1590 and 1613. His early plays were mainly comedies and histories, genres he raised to the peak of sophistication and artistry by the end of the sixteenth century. Next he wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest examples in the English language. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights. Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime, and in 1623, two of his former theatrical colleagues published the First Folio, a collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare's.

Shakespeare was a respected poet and playwright in his own day, but his reputation did not rise to its present heights until the nineteenth century. The Romantics, in particular, acclaimed Shakespeare's genius, and the Victorians hero-worshipped Shakespeare with a reverence that George Bernard Shaw called "bardolatry". In the twentieth century, his work was repeatedly adopted and rediscovered by new movements in scholarship and performance. His plays remain highly popular today and are consistently performed and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world.

According to historians, Shakespeare wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets throughout the span of his life. Shakespeare's writing average was 1.5 plays a year since he first started writing in 1589. There have been plays and sonnets attributed to Shakespeare that were not authentically written by the great master of language and literature.

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Profile Image for Madeline.
781 reviews47.2k followers
January 30, 2011
I wish I could've seen what performances of this play were like in Shakespeare's time. Since women couldn't be on stage, men had to play the women's roles, which means that the guy playing Viola had to also dress up as a man while acting like a woman.
You have to wonder if the audience ever really knew what was going on. I'll bet you anything you like that some form of the following conversation took place in the Globe Theater at one point:
GROUNDLING 1: Wait, wasn't that guy playing a girl? Why's he a guy again?

GROUNDLING 2: No, Viola's dressing up as a man.

GROUNDLING 1: So...he's a guy, playing a girl, playing a guy?

GROUNDLING 2: Yes. I think.

GROUNDLING 1: ...want me to get another round of ale?

GROUNDLING 2: God yes.

Oh, and also


VIOLA: Okay, where the fuck are we?

CAPTAIN: We're in Illyria - there's a duke who lives here who's totally in love with this chick Olivia, but she's all sad because her brother died like a year ago but Orsino won't leave it alone.

ORSINO: *sits in his room listening to "Love Hurts" on repeat and writing Olivia/Orsino fanfiction*

VIOLA: Well then, I guess the only thing for me to do is disguise myself as a boy and go work for Orsino! Ha ha, wouldn't it be a funny and awkward twist if I fell in love with Orsino?

CAPTAIN: Yeah...that'd be real unexpected.


CESARIO/VIOLA: Look, I know you're sad and everything - hey, my twin brother just died in a shipwreck too - but Orsino like, really really loves you. 'Cause you're hot, and stuff.

OLIVIA: Oh stop, you're hot. Kiss me!


SHAKESPEARE: Hee hee! Lesbians.

ORSINO: Why won't Olivia love me? My life is so unfair. Are you in love with anyone, Cesario? Because it sucks.

CESARIO/VIOLA: Yes, I love somebody. Somebody your complexion, and your height...but she's totally a chick, because I am obviously a boy.

ORSINO: Love sucks, and women are unfaithful whores.

CESARIO/VIOLA: Um...wow, you're actually sort of a douche. Why exactly am I attracted to you?

ORSINO: I assumed it was the brooding. Chicks dig guys who brood.

TOBY BELCH: Hey everybody, it's Comic Relief Time! Malvolio, Olivia has a crush on you and wants you to wear these poncy yellow stockings and smile all the time.

MALVOLIO: Well, they do make my legs look fabulous.


SEBASTIAN: Thank god I survived that horrible shipwreck! Too bad my sister's dead, though.

OLIVIA: Cesario! I demand that we have sex immediately!


ORSINO: Cesario, what the hell are you doing?





VIOLA: I'm a girl, surprise!

ORSINO: I love liars! Let's get married!

MALVOLIO: HEY! You assholes got me locked in a cell and then sent some clown to mock me! I swear by all that is holy, I WILL BE REVENGED ON YOU ALL!

VIOLA: Wait...is that seriously how the play ends? A guy we had wrongly incarcerated promises to get his revenge, which he actually kind of deserves?

FASTE: How about this? - I'll play a song, and then maybe the audience will forget that this play actually has the creepiest ending ever?
*he does, and we do.


Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews36 followers
September 29, 2021
Twelfth Night; or, What You Will, William Shakespeare

Twelfth Night, or What You Will is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written around 1601–02 as a Twelfth Night's entertainment for the close of the Christmas season.

The play centers on the twins Viola and Sebastian, who are separated in a shipwreck. Viola (who is disguised as Cesario) falls in love with Duke Orsino, who in turn is in love with the Countess Olivia. Upon meeting Viola, Countess Olivia falls in love with her thinking she is a man.

The play expanded on the musical interludes and riotous disorder expected of the occasion, with plot elements drawn from the short story "Of Apollonius and Silla" by Barnabe Rich, based on a story by Matteo Bandello.

The first recorded performance was on 2 February 1602, at Candlemas, the formal end of Christmastide in the year's calendar. The play was not published until its inclusion in the 1623 First Folio.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: دوازدهم ماه ژانویه سال 1989میلادی

عنوان: ن‍م‍ای‍ش‍ن‍ام‍ه‌ خ‍ن‍ده ‌آور ش‍ب‌ دوازده‍م،‌ ی‍ا «ه‍ر چ‍ه‌ ب‍خ‍واه‍ی»"؛ اث‍ر وی‍ل‍ی‍ام‌ ش‍ک‍س‍پ‍ی‍ر؛ مت‍رج‍م‌ ع‍لاء ال‍دی‍ن‌ پ‍ازارگ‍ادی‌؛ ت‍ه‍ران : بنگاه ترجمه و نشر کتاب‏‫، سال1354؛ در 189ص؛ موضوع نمایشنامه های نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده 17م

عنوان: شب دوازدهم یا آنچه شما بخواهید؛ اثر ویلیام شکسپیر؛ مترجم افضل وثوقی؛ تهران، رادیو تلویزیون ملی ایران، 1354، در 110ص؛

عنوان: شب دوازدهم نمایشنامه؛ اثر ویلیام شکسپیر؛ مترجم حمید الیاسی؛ تهران، روشنگران، 1368، در 197ص؛ چاپ دیگر 1390، در 238ص، شابک9789646751521؛

عنوان: شب دوازدهم نمایشنامه؛ اثر ویلیام شکسپیر؛ مترجم رحیم اصلانی؛ تبریز، گهواره؛ 1397؛ در 64ص؛ شابک9786229972588؛

عنوان: شب دوازدهم؛ ویلیام شکسپیر؛ مترجم میلاد میناکار؛ تهران: بنگاه ترجمه و نشر کتاب پارسه، ‏‫1398؛ در 190ص؛ شابک9786002533708؛

عنوان: شب دوازدهم شکسپیر؛ بازنگاری اندرو متیوز؛ تصویرگر تونی راس؛ مترجم بیژن اوشیدری؛ تهران: نشر مرکز، کتاب مریم، ‏‫1393؛ شابک9789642131648؛

این نمایش، در پنج پرده، تدوین شده؛ و دارای چهارده شخصیت؛ و تعدادی سیاهی لشکر است؛ شخصیت‌های اصلی نمایش عبارتند از «اورسینو، دوک احساساتی ایلیریا، انسانی نیک»؛ «اولیویا، کنتسی ثروتمند، همسایه اورسینو، در نهایت زیبایی»؛ «ویولا، قاصد اورسینو؛ مخفی در لباس پسران و با نام واقعی سزاریو (هرگز عشق را به زبان نمی‌آورد…؛)»؛ «سباستین، برادر دوقلوی ویولا»؛ «سر توبی بلچ، دایی اولیویا که در خانه او لنگر انداخته»؛ «ماریا، ندیمه اولیویا، یک سوسک کوچولو ولی زنده دل»؛ «سر آندرو اگوچیک، شوالیه‌ ای احمق»؛ «فست، دلقک اجازه سر خود اولیویا»؛ «مال ولیو»؛ «فابیان»؛ «آنتونیو»؛ «یک کاپیتان»؛ «والنتین»؛ «کوریو»؛ «لردها»، «یک کشیش»، «افسران»، «ملاحان»، «نوازندگان» و «خدمتکاران»؛

شخصیت «صوفی» در این نمایش‌نامه، به «شاه عباس صفوی» اشاره دارد؛ محل رخداد رویدادهای نمایشنامه «شهری در ایلیریا (کشوری باستانی در ساحل دریای آدریاتیک) و اسکله مجاور آن»؛

چکیده نمایشنامه: «اورسینیو» دوک محبوب «ایلیریا»، از فرط سیری، و پول و جاه، با بازی کردن نقش افتادن در دام عشق؛ دل بیمار و روح احساساتی خود را، تا سرحد حالت جذبه و نشوه، برانگیخته‌ است؛ معشوقه ی او البته کسی جز «کنتس اولیویای» زیبای شهر نیست، که قصری در همسایگی کاخ «دوک» دارد؛ «اورسینو» به منظور ابراز عشق، و شروع خواستگاری، پیام و هدیه‌ ای، توسط قاصد جدید خود، «سزاریو»ی جوان، برای «کنتس» می‌فرستد؛ اما نمی‌داند «سزاریو»، که به تازگی، به خدمت او درآمده، در واقع دختری، در لباس پسران است، با نام واقعی «ویولا»؛ او از روزهای اول دیدن «دوک»، عاشق «دوک» شده، و اکنون، بیش از همیشه، غمزده‌ است؛ در سوی دیگر «کنتس اولیویا» نیز، در قصر خود، همانند «دوک» احساساتی برانگیخته دارد، ولی آکنده از اندوه و تاسف است؛ «کنتس» زیبا، به تازگی تنها برادر عزیزش را، از دست داده، و از پذیرفتن، و ابراز عشق، و حتی همدمی با هر مردی، خودداری می‌کند؛ اما اینهمه باعث نمی‌شود، که در نخستین دیدار، با قاصد «دوک (ویولا در لباس مبدل)» به دریای عشق پرتلاطم او نیفتد…؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 21/11/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 06/07/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Anne.
4,060 reviews69.5k followers
February 11, 2023
Twins: Freaky or Fun?
Twelfth Night is Shakespeare's answer to that age-old question.


While I was listening to this, I had no idea that Viola & Sebastian were twins. As far as I knew, they were just siblings. But, apparently, they were (<--if I had read the blurb, I would have known this).
And apparently, it was also easy to pass as a man 400 years ago!
I guess if Gwen could do it (and still find time to write her ever-practical GOOP blog), then I could too!


This is useful to know, in case I ever get that time machine in the basement working and then decide to travel back to the 1600s to trick another woman into falling in love with me.
Otherwise, not quite as useful.


Anyway. So what was this one about?
Warning: Spoilers
But, realistically, I probably didn't understand what actually happened in the play anyway, so everything in this review is more than likely wrong.
Warning: Incorrect Spoilers

Ok, Viola & Sebastian went on a Carnival Cruise Vacation.
It ended badly. As they typically do...


Viola washes up on the shore of Illyria, thinking that her dear brother is lost at sea, and decides she needs to find a man!


She makes a deal with a Sea Witch , who turns her into a man, so she can infiltrate Prince Eric's Duke Orsino's household.
She has 3 days to snag a kiss, or the spell will be broken!
If that happens, the Sea Witch will plant her soul with all the rest of the poor bastards who made shitty impulsive deals!
Kids, it's never a good idea to strike a bargain with someone who has the word WITCH prominently displayed in their name. Just sayin'.


Right from the start, there are complications with Viola's plan. First off, the Duke is in love with someone else. HUGE problem. HUGE.
Secondly, he wants her (now known as Cesario) to woo his lady-love for him. Yeah! Can you believe that shit?
Hey, Olivia. Um, Orsino wants to know if you like him, or if you like him-like him?
Unfortunately, girls don't like it when you send a representative.
Grab your nuts and ask her out.


But in Orsino's defense, Olivia had rebuffed his previous advances.
A lot.


Now, Olivia is very intelligent, because she knows Orsino can't possibly really love her - due to the fact that he doesn't know her very well.
And at the same time, she's incredibly unintelligent, because she not only falls in love with Cesario after 5 minutes, but also fails to notice that the Dude Looks Like A Lady, and throws herself most unwelcomely at poor Viola.


Meanwhile, there is a whole 'nother story happening with Olivia's Uncle Toby & his drinking buddy, Andrew (<--who also likes Olivia!).
These two get together with Olivia's maid (and maybe someone else?) and decide to play a trick on a self-righteous guy named Malvolio, for calling them out on being obnoxious drunks.
At least it was a harmless and tasteful prank. They just made Olivia (<--Malvalio also likes her!) think he might possibly be demon-possessed, and then threw him in a dark room and tormented him for days.


Back to the love triangle!
Cuz here's where things get weird. Remember how Viola's brother died? Surprise, he's alive! And in Illyria! And with the captain who saved him! Naturally, he thinks his sister drowned <--because it's hard to swim in a dress!
So sad.


But while he's out mourning, he runs into...wait for it...OLIVIA!
And because her love runs so deep, she immediately mistakes him for his sister-in-drag and corners him to profess her undying love. She must be one hot piece of ass, because a few stolen moments with her, and Sebastian is head over heels in love. Then she proposes to him.
Whoo-hoo! Feminism!
Hundreds of years later, and we're almost there, ladies!


Olivia (savvy lady that she is) seems to have kept a priest on standby just for this sort of occasion because 15 minutes later those two are saying their vows.


Don't worry, I'm sure they are going to be very happy.
Let's check in on Malvolio, shall we?


Well, he seems fine!
{insert more shenanigans here}
Duke Orsino finds out that Olivia is in love with Cesario, and starts hauling him away to be killed. Viola/Cesario accepts her fate because she loves Orsino so much that she would rather DIE than cause him pain.
If it were me, I'd vote for pain. Sorry, Orsino.
Olivia, desperate to save her man, calls in the priest to attest that they are married. Which just confuses the hell out of Viola.
But not for long!
Because good old Uncle Toby comes running in with a story about getting his ass kicked by Cesario, followed quickly by the Imitation Cesario (aka Sebastian).
At which point, everyone realizes that there are TWO Cesarios in the house.
Damn! Shit just got real!


It only takes several minutes of ridiculous questions for each of the (painfully stupid) Wonder Twins to realize that their sibling isn't dead.
Your father had a mole?
My father had a mole!


I know what you're thinking...
How does Viola keep from becoming fertilizer in the Sea Witch's garden of shriveled souls?
Good question, random person!
It turns out, once Orsino realizes that A) Olivia is off the market and B) Cesario is a girl, he immediately transfers his undying love to her.
Boom! Done! Happy Endings for everyone!
Including Olivia's maid (and Punk'd accomplice), Maria, who gets married to the drunken prize, Toby.


Oh, and don't worry about Malvolio. They eventually let him out. I mean, yeah, he's pretty much scarred for life and wanders away swearing to have his revenge, but I'm sure he'll get over it.


It's a little-known fact that Twelfth Night wasn't Shakespeare's first choice for the name of this play. Originally, it was going to be called, How Stupid Can You Be? <--Read it on the internet. Must be true.
Ok, maybe not. Regardless, this was a fun story, and I quite enjoyed it.

I listened to this one on a Playaway device, and I got to hear a full cast of characters, sound effects, and music. Definitely the way to go!
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,097 reviews17.7k followers
August 5, 2019
This is my favorite ridiculous show and so I'm beginning this with a chart:
pink: marriage
blue: crush on
green: flirts with

So, yeah, this is a really really funny play, and a play with a lot of good puns, etc etc etc, and it is for that reason that it is entertaining. But this show is compelling for some deeper reasons. Here, I will insert several bits of my eight-page essay on gender and sexuality in Twelfth Night, an essay that got embarrassingly long.

Throughout Twelfth Night, Shakespeare plays with the idea of both gender and romance as roles we perform, and with love as something beyond gender or sexuality. Beginning with lead character Viola transforming herself into Cesario, the show delves into issues of gender as a performed role and romance as another performed role, a tool for status gain. Characters desire each other for outside appearance or for status, rather than for love. Viola’s transformation of gender allows her to take on a freer ‘role’ in the world, a role which at once suits her and forces her to hide. Yet Orsino wants her as both a maid and a man — in other words, he loves her for who she is. By consciously breaking gender roles, Shakespeare concludes that gender and love are primarily performance, yet gives his characters some intimacy anyway.

Throughout Twelfth Night, characters break their gendered ‘roles’ in society, with women coming off as powerful and men coming off as incompetent. Despite Orsino’s claims about the “weak nature” (3.4.30) of women, it is not women who are weak within the play: Maria is bold and conniving, and Olivia consistently resists the romantic role she is placed into by Orsino. Orsino is perhaps one of the most passionate characters in the play in his love for Olivia — “O, then unfold the passion of my love / Surprise her with discourse of my dear faith” (1.4.26-27) — and he changes his mind quickly — “If music be the food of love, play on... Enough; no more” (1.1.1-6). Meanwhile, Viola/Cesario is the more logical and rational: “She bore a mind that envy could not but call fair” (2.1.28-29), Sebastian says of her. This contrast between the romantic, changeable Orsino, and the strong, confident-in-her-choices Viola is a direct inversion of societal sexism, a humanizing of women that is revolutionary in merit. Yet despite their personal breaks in role, each character is still playing a part, dictated by gender. Women in the play cannot always express their freedom; Olivia, for example, is looked at as a romantic object by Orsino, and Maria by Toby. Only one female character manages to fully escape this, and she takes somewhat extreme measures.

Like a role in a drama, Viola's gender identity is simply a matter of outer appearance. Yet over time, we notice that Cesario’s character is convincing enough to others that she is hardly criticized. Sebastian says of her, “it was said she much resembled me” (2.1.24-25), something Viola confirms with “my brother know / Yet living in my glass” (3.4.399-400); meanwhile, Maria describes her as “a fair young man, and / well attended” (1.5.101-102). It is here that the play’s tension appears: where does the character start, and Viola begin? Viola, as Cesario, is often described via metaphors and similes; no one can quite pin her down. Indeed, as the play continues, Viola seems to take on the role of both a maid and a man. In early stages of the show, she refers to herself thusly — “As I am man, / My state is desperate for my master’s love. / As I am woman (now, alas the day!)...” (2.2.36-38). But even upon the unveiling of her womanhood, the duality of her nature is clearly stated — “Nor are you therein, by my life, deceived: / You are betrothed both to a maid and man” (5.1.228-230). Within these lines, Shakespeare puts Viola in the liminal space between gender, allowing her a role in the world in which her personality supersedes her gender. Viola performs the role of a man, and thus she is a man. When Sebastian and Viola are finally reunited, the situation calls for Sebastian to refer to his sister in the past tense. Yet metaphorically, there is perhaps some truth to this past-tense gendering. “I had a sister / Whom the blind waves and surges have devoured” (5.1.239-240), Sebastian tells the audience. Maybe, indeed, Viola and Cesario have become one and the same.

Yet through her disguise, Viola is also put into a position where she cannot be loved for her true personhood, a position many other characters share. Within Twelfth Night, disguise and failed honesty both ruin and form relationships. Malvolio’s disguise, taken on to make Olivia fall in love with him, backfires entirely, leading him to be interred in the dungeons. Meanwhile, Sir Toby and Maria’s relationship is based around their role in humiliating another, with very little human connection; Maria, like Malvolio, simply desires her chosen lover to boost her status. Indeed, perhaps the biggest tragedy of the play, then, is that Olivia does, in fact, end up with someone she knows only from the outside. She has fallen for Cesario’s ‘outside,’ yes, but she has also fallen for her clever lines and flirtatiousness. And yet by chance, she has married the wrong person, someone of whom she knows nothing but outer character. Sebastian, in a similar fashion, has married someone he barely knows, and in so doing rejected another who clearly cares for him. In the face of Antonio’s sacrifices — “His life I gave him and did thereto add / My love, without retention or restraint, / All his in dedication. For his sake / Did I expose myself, pure for his love” (5.1.78-82) — the love of someone Sebastian has met only lines earlier pales. Honest love has not come about for Olivia, Sebastian, Malvolio, Antonio, or Maria: their disguises have stayed intact.

It is only in the relationship between Orsino and Viola that love occurs on a true basis of personal knowledge, transversing heteronormative romantic boundaries (note: this line inspired one of my teachers to ask how I learned the word heteronormative, which is deeply hilarious). Orsino begins the play in a role, that of a lovesick teenger for an unnatainable girl; it is only through the love of someone he actually knows that he breaks out of his role. The relationship between Orsino and Viola relationship is clearly romantic before Viola is shown to be a woman. The first scene we see of Cesario and Orsino begins with a brief speech from Valentine, in which he establishes their relationship has already become quite close: “He hath known you but three days, and already you are no stranger” (1.4.1-4). It is Orsino’s words themselves, however, that best indicate romantic tension towards Viola: “...Cesario, / Thou know’st no less but all. I have unclasped / To thee the book even of my secret soul” (1.4.13-15). Perhaps more importantly, it is clearly established he is attracted to her even in believing her to be a man — “Diana’s lip / Is not more smooth and rubious, thy small pipe / Is as the maiden’s organ, shrill and sound, / And all is semblative a womans part” (1.4.50-54), he says to her. (note: it also establishes that Viola definitely looks like a twink. you're welcome.)

In strong contrast to Olivia’s love for Viola and Orsino’s love for Olivia, Orsino is someone Viola knows. The challenge here thus is not a lack of connection, but a lack of ability to be together as two men. “I, poor monster, / fond as much on him” (2.2.33-34), Viola says of herself, self-deprecating on her state of desire for Orsino; she knows her desire cannot be while she plays the role of a man. Their relationship does not lose sexual tension throughout the show, either. Orsino’s direction to Viola to “If ever thou shalt love, / In the sweet pangs of it remember me” (2.4.17-18) is easy to read into, and Viola’s subsequent discussion of her sister’s feelings for a man are hard to stage as anything but a sexually tense scene. A clever bit of wordplay a scene later uses servanthood as something sexually driven, sexualizing Viola’s relationship with Orsino: “You’re servant to the Count Orsino, youth.” “And he is yours, and his must needs be yours / Your servant’s servant is your servant, madam” (3.1.102-104). Here, Viola uses ‘servant’ to denote both her own servitude and Orsino’s love for Olivia, establishing the term as something of a romantic innuendo (as it was commonly used). Even when confronted by accusations about Cesario, Orsino calls him his own: “my gentleman Cesario?” (5.1.193).

There is a moment of change in the play, where Orsino discovers that Cesario is also Viola, and we, as the audience, have an expectation of how this will play out — in the 2005 reimagination She’s the Man, for example, Orsino is horrified by Viola’s identity as a woman and romantic tension with him, and must take a week to process her true self. In contrast, the play’s Orsino proposes to Cesario only minutes after discovering her identity. Their relationship is now, quite suddenly to Orsino, permitted, no longer taboo; thus, the play implies that the only obstacle to their romance has been societal judgement around Cesario’s outer presentation, rather than Orsino’s feelings towards her. Notably, Orsino, in proposing, does not attempt to put Viola into the box of womanhood. He calls Viola boy even in asking her to marry him — “Boy, thou hast said to me a thousand times / Thou never shouldst love woman like to me” (5.1.279-280), his declaration begins, also implying that their conversations have gotten… intimate, shall we say, previous to this revelation. He then proposes thusly: “And since you called me “master” for so long, / Here is my hand. You shall from this time be / Your master’s mistress” (5.1.339-340)... “—Cesario, come, / For so you shall be while you are a man. / But when in other habits you are seen, / Orsino’s mistress, and his fancy’s queen” (5.1.408-411). Even with Viola’s role exposed, he still sees her as inhabiting the liminal space between gender; he has not changed his recognition of her personhood. In other words, he loves her for who she is, beyond the performed roles of manhood or womanhood — it is simply that her new role as a woman allows their relationship to progress in public.

Shakespeare is not a playwright averse to situations of gender confusion — his plays As You Like It, The Merchant of Venice, and Two Gentlemen of Verona all play with crossdressing in some way. Yet this play specifically establishes love as something beyond gender, done for personality and not fitting into heteronormative ideals. In ending his show with Orsino and Viola marrying, Shakespeare comes the closest possible to allowing two men to form a relationship on stage. While few truly romantic couples actually end up together within the show, the subtext of the play is clear: good love is love that sees beyond the outside to the heart. Hope you enjoyed this sappy essay.

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Profile Image for Henry Avila.
469 reviews3,256 followers
March 16, 2021
Now a strange astonishing thing or two happened, off the west coast of the Balkans, ( Illyria) in an undetermined age, aristocratic identical twins a boy and a girl well around twenty, give or take a few years were lost at sea, shipwrecked by a powerful storm. Presumed drowned by the other surviving sibling, both saw their relative in an untenable situation. But this being a play the twins keep on breathing reaching the beautiful, dry, glorious beach with separate help from out of the blue, the ship's kind sea captain and an infamous pirate , miracles do occur sometimes. Nevertheless, unknown to the grieving duo ... For some reason they changed their names on land, Sebastian becomes Roderigo and his sister Viola much more drastically a man, Cesario wearing men's clothes, a pretty boy she is too (a rose by any other name would smell as sweet). She/He, starts working for the local Duke Orsino, who loves another person of noble blood , Countess Olivia. But the lady is grieving for a recently deceased beloved brother and is in no mood for romance, besides the Duke doesn't appeal to her sad soul. Olivia needs a year to mourn the lady tells the passionate, impatient Duke. And Olivia has a secret crush on his messenger Cesario, ( Orsino is a very jealous, fierce man, who likes to duel) he also after just a few days becomes very fond of his new, sweet servant. Now the distraught Countess, in her mansion has her drunken uncle living with her, a big headache Sir Toby, imbibing all night long coming home in a boisterous condition out of control, waking up the whole household with his cowardly young friend, Sir Andrew. What can Olivia do, he's a relative. And Sir Andrew wants to marry the countess too and has given money to her impecunious uncle. Another member of her entourage is her late father's jester The Fool also called Feste, acting silly is his job and does it very well but The Fool is the smartest one around. Witty comments are his specialty ... Still the head of her servants stern Malvolio, hated by the rest rules with an iron hand, except Sir Toby the noble family is above him. But the lackeys are restless and want revenge. More trouble for Lady Olivia, she falls in desperate love with the disguised Viola as Cesario, who becomes very uneasy. And when Sebastian finally arrives in town people speak to the visitor, as if they recognize him ! The twin feels quite confused agitated, is he or these strangers mad ? Even Sir Andrew and Sir Toby, take their swords out to fight the supposedly timid "Cesario" , who is not his sister and knows how to duel. A surprise ensues for the not too brave pair. Another splendid fun play , from the incomparable master William Shakespeare... enough said or written.
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.9k followers
March 8, 2019

The treatment of Malvolio is a little too cruel, Belch and Aguecheek are a little too coarse, and the resolution is a little too abrupt, and so this excellent Shakespearean comedy falls a little short of perfection.

Still, the poetry about music and the songs themselves are wonderful, Viola and Orsino are charming, and Feste is the wisest and best of clowns.
Profile Image for Tim.
477 reviews661 followers
June 12, 2022
When I was in college a professor once told me this was one of Shakespeare's least interesting and a "skip-able" play. That statement boggled my mind. I know this is an extremely unpopular opinion, but it's honestly my favorite of his plays.

Why does this one work so well for me? First off, I think it's downright the funniest work he ever wrote. Some of the lines/scenes are laugh out loud funny. In particular I'm rather fond of the following:

Viola: Save thee, friend, and thy music: dost thou live by thy tabour?

Feste: No, sir, I live by the church.

Viola: Art thou a churchman?

Feste: No such matter, sir: I do live by the church; for I do live at my house, and my house doth stand by the church.

Twelfth Night is a screwball comedy from the 30s that just happened to be written in the 1600s.

On a more serious note; I love the quote "I was adored once too" said Andrew Aguecheek. I love this line so much, as in an otherwise comedic play, it adds a depth and melancholy to one of the more foolish characters. It's not the most well known line in the play, but it's one that when delivered properly just kind of stops the show as it makes the viewer almost uncomfortable about having mocked this character.

It also it a lovely meta-comedy as in Shakespeare's time, it would have been all male actors. So, we have a lead, played by a male, whose character is female, and pretending to be a male. I imagine at that point that Shakespeare just delighted messing with his audience a bit.

Is it his greatest work? No, of course not. It was intended as a silly comedy... it just happens that this specific silly comedy just works for me. A full 5/5 stars.
Profile Image for Dolors.
541 reviews2,282 followers
November 15, 2017
“Twelfth night” is probably the most well rounded of all the Shakespearean comedies I have read so far, both for its structure and thematic scope, which is close to the darkest side of his best tragedies.

Evading the somewhat shallow hedonism of his earlier comedies, the perplexed reader encounters a play that is opened with a shipwreck on the coast of the fictional town of Illyria. The twins Viola and Sebastian were onboard of the crashed vessel but they lose sight of each other amidst the chaos and they both assume the other is dead. A chain of improbable events lead to several impersonations and mistaken identities that involve gender and class transformation, setting Viola as a male servant in the court of the Duke of Orsino who is vainly fixated on the damsel Olivia, whose grief for her lost brother prevents her from reciprocating the Duke’s passion. Against all predictions, Viola becomes the Duke’s confidant and slowly conquers not only his heart but also Olivia’s, giving way to a jocular situation that is impossible to argue with logic as seen in Orsino’s frustrated lament:

“One face, one voice, one habit, and two persons!
A natural perspective, that is, and is not!”

Act V, scene 2.

The action of this play is somewhat fragmented and the characters seem to act merely on impulse; that trait alone presents quite a contrast to the deliberation displayed by the most iconic protagonists of the Bard’s oeuvre. The main attraction of this comedy shouldn’t be expected in the parallel plots or in the tangled web of misplaced identities that defy gender bias and preconceived ideas about sexual orientation, heartbreak, grief or mockery; instead, it is to be found in the musicality of the language that shines more brightly in Orsino’s interventions and the Fool’s sagacious interludes.

The riotous undertone of this wild play appeals to the contradictions that we all carry inside us, which keep us awake at night, tossing and turning, wondering what it is that we expect from life, of the yearning to love and be loved, but mainly of the hidden desires that we do not dare to bring to the surface, which Shakespeare did never avoid. He challenges us to be courageous and face them, and make of our next step “what we will”.
Profile Image for James.
Author 20 books3,728 followers
September 1, 2017
Book Review
4 out of 5 stars to Twelfth Night, a comedy written in 1601 by William Shakespeare. There are more reviews written about Shakespeare than either of us know what to do with, on, over or about. So you're not getting a review from me. What I will say is the following: Love him or not, the man can create brilliant plots and characters. Twins. Mistaken identities. Tomfoolery. Witchcraft. A chain of "who's on first" when it comes to which character is in love with which other character. Confusion knows no bounds here. But I love it. It's hilarious. If you're not used to Shakespeare's style and rhythm, this wouldn't be the first play of his I'd recommend. Or if you really want to read this one, you might want to watch a film version first, just to get the plot down -- as it's more convoluted than any soap opera out there. And I should know, I've watched nearly all of them. It's got a little bit of everything, but if you can see it happen first, then read it... it'll come across even better as you can concentrate on the words and images that come to mind, rather than trying to comprehend which person is in which disguise when they are talking. I have to imagine he talked to himself a lot when writing this one, adding voices and different character attributes to even be sure he understood what he had going on!

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.
Profile Image for Piyangie.
530 reviews491 followers
January 18, 2023
Twelfth Night is the first Shakespearean play I read. I was too young to appreciate Shakespeare at that time but I still remember liking it very much. So, when I decide to return to reading Shakespeare once again, it was natural for me to begin with Twelfth Night. To my greater disappointment, I felt something vacant and bare in the play. I just couldn’t believe it is the same play that I used to like so much. I don’t know if it is due to the edition that I read or my mood at the time of reading. So, I told myself that I would return to it once again. I’m really glad that I did, for I’m restored to my earlier opinion of the play.

Touching on the themes of love, desire, deception, and mistaken identity, Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s more complex comedies. The play consists of a few different stories: the love triangle of Duke Orsino, Countess Olivia, and Viola, the chaos ensued due to mistaken identity, and a cruel trick of heart played as means of revenge. All these separate stories are cleverly interwoven and all nicely tied up in the end.

Twelfth Night has an interesting set of characters, Viola and Countess Olivia being my favourites. The play is full of satire, humour, and witty prose. The writing is beautiful and graceful even though it doesn’t have the pure lyrical beauty of Shakespearean plays like Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There is also a good element of action.

It was a fun read and I loved it. I’m really happy with the outcome of this read. Now I can honestly say that Twelfth Night is my favourite Shakespearean comedy.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,883 reviews16.6k followers
June 22, 2017
Reading Shakespeare is almost like going down into the basement of literature and examining the foundations.

So often I find the origins of what has become trite and overdone, and yet Shakespeare was the fountain from which so much springs. This is especially true of Twelfth Night, it is apparent that so many comedies and romances over the centuries were heavily influenced by this play.

Very entertaining.

Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 6 books13.7k followers
June 11, 2018
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”

This was fun. The thing is that comedies are always more fun on a stage. Ultimately, so are tragedies.
Shakespeare created a hilarious story of love, confusion and foolishness. There is a lot of genderbending and cross-dressing and homosexualitating (yes, I know that is not a word). Quite a queer tale. And in the end, everything and everybody is set straight and does not marry below their own station. A bit of a let-down if you ask me. Especially because this is not exactly how I imagine true love to be, but oh my, sometimes we can lean back and simply enjoy ourselves.

I must admit that I liked A Midsummer Night's Dream better. However, I'm biased since I was part of a production of this play. I also like Richard II better, because I knew more about its cultural context and enjoyed the relationship between Shakespeare's Richard and the actual living and breathing and long dead king.

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Profile Image for Alex.
1,419 reviews4,494 followers
July 12, 2022
Some of these people, my gosh, Janelle Monae and Frank Ocean and Emma Gonzalez, they seem to have moved altogether past gender, right? Oh brave new world. And here's Shakespeare, who once again is meeting us in the future.

Let’s get to it: in Elizabethan times, female parts on the stage were played by men, so we’re starting with cross-dressing. Shakespeare was inspired and amused by this, and he often plays with it. Twelfth Night is the best example, and one of his most enduring comedies. Here’s how it goes: Viola, played by a man, disguises herself as a man. As a man she tries to woo Olivia for this guy Orsino. She falls in love with Orsino herself. Of course, Olivia falls in love with Man Viola. But there’s a real Man Viola - Viola’s lost brother Sebastian - whom Olivia meets later and mistakes for Man Viola, and who's played by the same guy anyway.

"An apple cleft in two is not more twin
Than these two creatures."

So we're running, what, four levels deep? Man plays woman plays man mistaken for another man who actually exists. Meanwhile Orsino has fallen for Viola even though he thinks she's a man:

Diana's lip
Is not more smooth and rubious, thy small pipe
Is as the maiden's organ, shrill and sound,
And all is semblative a woman's part,"
he says to her. In the end Olivia and the brother get married, and so do Viola and Orsino. All is well.

I know! "This is to give a dog and in recompense desire my dog again." Shakespeare seems indifferent to gender in ways we’re only starting to catch up with now. Here’s his famous 20th Sonnet:

A woman’s face, with nature’s own hand painted,
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman’s gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women’s fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,
Which steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created,
Till nature as she wrought thee fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
  But since she pricked thee out for women’s pleasure,
  Mine be thy love, and thy love’s use their treasure.

Here again, he seems to talk about love above gender. Shakespeare’s identity, sexual and physically, has been in question for ages; he’s a trickster and he’s a genius, and we’re collectively in a bit of a tizzy about it.

I have no horse in this race. I like the world weird. It's the future now, and some brave new vanguard of us are wiggling into some kind of post gender, post sexual orientation kind of situation. And here we are with hoary old Shakespeare, who seems to have beaten us to it, doesn't he? Plays like this will of course end traditionally, with everyone heteropaired off. But in between there's a confusion of flirting; anything seems possible. Dude Viola, pretending to make Orsino's case to Olivia, is clearly flirting with her instead. In the end they'll all marry people of the opposite gender - but not really, since they're all men up on that stage. The play is still happening.

I’ve been spending all this time talking about gender politics and I’ve forgotten to talk about the play. Will you like it? Sortof. The problem with Shakespeare's comedies is that they employ a lot of puns and wordplay, and that exposes our unfamiliarity with Shakespeare's words. There are these long scenes with people giggling about back-tricks and codding, and you just don't understand a word of it.

Toby: What is thy excellence in a galliard, knight?
Andrew: Faith, I can cut a caper.
Toby: And I can cut the mutton to't.

What the fuck is that? Who cares? There's a sub plot involving Toby, Andrew, Maria and Malvolio that should be entirely ignored. It's Shakespeare at his most impenetrable. The only fun part of it is, we get this famous quote: "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." Fun to see Shakespeare, here at the peak of his powers, just throwing shit around; these are immortal lines that've inspired countless dumb tattoos and dumber political speeches, and they come from a fake letter in a shitty subplot in a comedy. (And for that matter, they are considerably more dick-joke-oriented than these college students and politicians probably had in mind. Greatness! Thrust!)

Act III is almost totally lost to this nonsense. But this gender-bending shit - I want to be serious for a hot minute here. Shakespeare’s tragedies are more accessible than his comedies. This comedy, I like for its gender politics mostly. I’m a cis man. I was born a straight white man and that’s worked out great for me and I’ve never really had to debate anything. (I had sex with a guy once to see what it was like, don’t get me wrong, but let’s not confuse tourism with life.) To live in a world where people get to question and, if necessary, redefine their genders, or even discard the word - that makes the world richer for me. There are more stories. I don’t think it’s meaningless to have support from the best writer in the history of the planet. Here's what makes Shakespeare great: wherever humans find ourselves, we find him somehow there ahead of us.
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,119 reviews44.8k followers
February 13, 2016
I really didn’t expect to like this. Most comedy is wasted on me, but Shakespearean comedy is just so damn funny. Reading this play is only half the picture. I think this is a play that really must be seen in performance as well. I watched a DvD version of the recent globe production and I was practically rolling on my living room floor with laughter. It had an all-male cast, which just made it even better. Mark Rylance as Olivia was just pure comic genius, and Stephen Fry as Malvolio was just awkward and hilarious. It was simply amazing.



The scene with the yellow stockings was just perfect. Malvolio is in love with Olivia, and as a joke several knights play a trick on him. Olivia detests the colour yellow, so they tell him she loves it and that it makes her weak at the knees. As a consequence, Malvolio gets himself a nice big pair of yellow stocking and brandishes them in her presence. She is disgusted with them, and him; she then tells him to go to bed, which he misinterprets as “let’s go to bed together.” So, he tries his luck and ends up in a rather amusing looking prison cell. That’s only one small aspect of the plot, but arguably one of the funniest. I couldn’t think of a better Malvolio that Stephen Fry; he came across as pedantic, arrogant and horny. It’s a rather funny combination.


Love is a fickly and awkward thing. It is often won by accident and happenchance. All sought after love in this is denied, and all accidental love is pursued and granted. Viola/Cesario falls in love with Orsino whilst trying to persuade Olivia to love Orsino, which results in Olivia falling in love with Viola/Ceasrio. It’s a complicated, and ironic, love triangle, which is only resolved by it gaining another edge and becoming a love square. Sebastian, Viola’s brother, comes along which Olivia mistakes for Viola; she “saves” him from a group of knights and declares her love to him. Sebastian is confused and bewildered because he’s never seen this woman before in his life; she swoons over him and claims him as hers. It’s all very funny and a little bit of a headache if you’ve never read this. Mistaken identity is the reason for all of this. Viola is pretending to be a man, which makes her look just like her brother, and leads to the comic confusion.

This may sound complex, but it’s not. It’s perhaps one of the easiest of Shakespeare’s plays to follow, if you struggle with that sort of thing. The all-male cast of the globe production made the gender divides even stranger. There was a man acting a female character who was pretending to be a man. It was all so good. Olivia was melodramatic and ridiculously exaggerated as a female, which made the production so ludicrously entertaining. If you’ve got a spare few hours, and your're in need of a good laugh, I recommend watching it.


Profile Image for leynes.
1,116 reviews3,033 followers
September 6, 2021
She’s The Man is better than its source material,” I say into the mic.

The crowd boos. I begin to walk off in shame, when a voice speaks and commands silence from the room.

“She’s right,” it says. I look for the owner of the voice. There in the 3rd row he stands: Willie Shakes himself.


Let me break it down for you: Orsino is in love with Olivia, despite the fact that he has never seen her. Malvolio thinks Olivia is in love with him, Sir Andrew thinks he can marry Olivia. Sebastian agrees to marry Olivia two minutes after meeting her.


Olivia thinks she can marry ‘Cesario’ (who is in fact Viola in disguise). Antonio thinks Viola is Sebastian (her twin brother; don’t ask), Sir Andrew and Sir Toby think Sebastian is Viola, Malvolio thinks Feste is Sir Topas. Viola thinks Sir Andrew a redoubtable swordsman and he thinks the same of her.

For real, who is supposed to keep up with that shit? A shirtless Channing Tatum is all I wanted. I’m not that hard to please, Shakes.


Also, Antonio and Sebastian are hella gay, and you can’t tell me otherwise. Sebastian dropped Olivia like a hot potato as soon as he was reunited with his one true love.
“Antonio! O, my dear Antonio! How have the hours racked and tortured me since I have lost thee.”
Previous to this, Antonio was bragging about how he hasn't left Sebastian's side for three months, both day and night.
Profile Image for Paul Haspel.
563 reviews82 followers
April 29, 2023
Two things stand out to me regarding William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. The first is the strength and courage of the play's women characters. The second is the way in which this play, composed at the height of Shakespeare's powers as a writer, mixes high and low comedy so seamlessly.

We know now the practical challenges that faced Shakespeare and other playwrights of the Elizabethan era as they considered their prospective audiences. In that time when playgoing was a profession of dubious respectability, theatre companies had to draw in every potential customer they could. Nobles and well-to-do commoners could sit comfortably in the gallery, shielded from the heat of summer, the cold of other seasons, and the rain that falls in England all year round. Those with less disposable income, by contrast, would pay a lesser fee to stand in the open area in front of the stage, exposed to the elements.

And those socioeconomic differences in turn influenced what different audience members wanted to see in their dramatic entertainment. The affluent gallery guests would expect witty repartee, sophisticated commentary on the social scene of their time, and well-drawn characters in interesting situations. The "groundlings," by contrast, inhabiting the late-16th- or early-17th-century equivalent of a mosh pit, wanted much earthier entertainment - sex talk; jokes about bodily functions; characters clobbering one another after the manner of the Three Stooges, or the Minions in the Despicable Me movies. A good playwright had to provide an audience with all of the above.

Fortunately for Shakespeare, for the audience of his time, and for all of us, he was a great playwright; and all the elements of Twelfth Night combine for a delightful comic mix.

The delights of Twelfth Night start with the nuances of its title - a deceptively casual title for a play constructed with such care. The post-comma part of the title - Or What You Will - has a "whatever" quality, as if the playwright genuinely doesn't care what he calls his play. The foreword to this edition discusses a popular theory that Shakespeare may have written the play specifically for a Twelfth Night entertainment in Queen Elizabeth's court, when the English monarch was receiving an Italian duke at court in 1601.

Interesting theory, that; but the mystery behind the reasons for the title of Twelfth Night remains. Perhaps it is for that reason that director Trevor Nunn, in his 1996 film adaptation of the play, provides at the beginning of the film some context, added by the screenwriter, to provide some explanation for the play's otherwise-unexplained title: "Once, upon Twelfth Night -- or what you will/Aboard a ship bound home to Messaline/The festive company, dressed for masquerade/Delight above the rest in two young twins." Pretty gutsy, to put one's own blank-verse iambic pentameter right next to Shakespeare's.

But to the play. The high comedy of Twelfth Night emanates from the seemingly grave situation of two young twins, Viola and Sebastian, whose ship is wrecked off the coast of Illyria, a region of the western Balkans roughly corresponding to the former Yugoslavia. Sebastian is missing and presumed lost; his sister Viola, knowing that she will not be safe traveling as a woman alone in a strange country, disguises herself as a man and takes the name of Cesario. In this guise, Viola becomes a favored courtier of Orsino, Duke of Illyria, and gradually finds herself falling in love with the duke.

Duke Orsino, like so many nobles in Shakespeare's work, is a bit of a mess; he claims to be desperately in love with the countess Olivia, but part of the supposed intensity of his emotion may stem from Olivia's inaccessibility (her brother has died, and she has pledged not to marry until a seven years' period of mourning has elapsed).

Many people know Orsino's famous first line of the play: "If music be the food of love, play on." Not as many, by contrast, are aware that Orsino then insists on the musicians stopping and re-playing a particular part of the song -- "That strain again! It had a dying fall" -- like that drunk guy in a bar who goes to the jukebox and plays song G5, over and over and over. And then Orsino contradicts himself altogether by saying, "Enough, no more!/'Tis not so sweet now as it was before." Orsino is not really in love; he is in love with the idea of being in love.

The low comedy of the play, meanwhile, comes to us courtesy of Olivia's uncle, one Sir Toby Belch. (I suppose calling him Sir Toby Fart would have been a bit much.) Sir Toby, whose place in Olivia's family and household gives him a certain freedom to eat, drink, and be belchy, speaks what many of the "groundlings" in Shakespeare's audience would no doubt have been thinking regarding the pretensions of the upper classes of that time, as when he scornfully says to another character, "Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?"

Sir Toby is keeping himself in pocket change through regular contributions from an unfortunate and feckless nobleman, one Sir Andrew Aguecheek (or "Fever-face," if you will), who regularly supplies the Belchster with money as part of a hopeless suit for Olivia's hand. Amidst this collection of ne'er-do-wells, Maria, an attendant to Olivia, is a long-suffering spokesperson for common sense.

A third comedic plotline proceeds from the antagonism between Feste, Olivia's clown (and one of a long line of wise Shakespearean fools), and Olivia's priggish and stuck-up steward Malvolio, who would like nothing better than to see Feste dismissed from Olivia's service. Olivia aptly tells Malvolio that "you are sick of self-love...and taste with a distempered appetite", and any first-time reader of Twelfth Night who is familiar with the norms of Shakespearean comedy will sense at once that Malvolio has some sort of comeuppance coming his way.

From these three plotlines, the comedy ensues. Viola, whose disguise as Cesario gets him admitted to Olivia's court to plead the Duke's suit, learns to her shock that Olivia has fallen in love with Cesario -- or, to put it another way, with the male disguise that conceals the woman Viola. Viola's twin brother Sebastian, who survived the shipwreck, meanwhile makes his way toward Orsino's kingdom, where his resemblance to Viola results in comic complications that show the extent of Shakespeare's debt to the Roman comedic playwright Plautus. And Sir Toby, Feste, and Maria concoct a plot to humiliate the self-important Malvolio by getting him to think that Olivia has fallen in love with him. And Shakespeare brings it all together quite seamlessly in Act V.

As mentioned above, the strength of the women characters in Twelfth Night really stands out for me. Viola is brave, smart, and kind; cast into a situation of adversity, she survives by her wits without losing her humanity or her compassion. She is a truly heroic character, and her heroism is human and believable. Small wonder that the Shakespeare character from the film Shakespeare in Love (1998), inspired by his love for the noblewoman Viola de Lesseps, speaks at film's end of his plans for writing Twelfth Night, and says of the character Viola that her "soul is greater than the ocean, and her spirit stronger than the sea's embrace. Not for her a watery end, but a new life beginning on a stranger shore. It will be a love story. For she will be my heroine for all time. And her name will be Viola."

There is something moving in the way Olivia finds herself falling in love against her will, never knowing that she is falling in love with a woman rather than a man. And Maria shows that those like Malvolio who would dismiss her determination and intelligence do so at their own peril.

I also like the play's reflections on gender. Just as Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, disguising himself as a girl at one point in that novel, must learn to negotiate gender as a construct - by "throwing like a girl," among other lessons - so Viola must learn through careful observation what is socially determined, rather than biologically innate, about being "one of the guys." That Shakespeare engaged these complex thematic ideas in a play that is so much fun is enduring proof of his genius.

It is a bit of an anachronism when Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love watches the first staging of Romeo and Juliet, is moved by the tragedy of the young lovers, and then instructs one of her courtiers to "tell Master Shakespeare, something more cheerful next time, for Twelfth Night." In point of fact, it is likely that eight years and quite a few plays separated Romeo and Juliet from Twelfth Night. But it is no accident that Tom Stoppard, screenwriter for Shakespeare in Love (and a man who, as author of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, knows his Shakespeare), made a point of evoking Twelfth Night as a particularly strong example of Shakespeare's artistry. Seeking out this great play, and enjoying it, is much more than a matter of "what you will."
Profile Image for Luís.
1,947 reviews611 followers
March 30, 2022
Theatre is a genre that you read when you feel like it. So it is with pleasure that I find a genre that I like to read, a classic; what is more, the Shakespearean theatre shows a model in the genre.
Here, the scenes engage the themes of cross-dressing, misunderstandings, revenge and cunning. Love, of course. Who always with this master wants to be complex and convoluted.
The characters are archetypes but also conceal the richness of the game. As often, we particularly savour the flights of the madman, imprinted with many truths so that everything ends for the best.
It is a play that can scan, a story with twists that lends itself to smiles and emotion.
Profile Image for Melindam.
666 reviews294 followers
August 17, 2023
Besides "Much ado about nothing", Twelfth Night is my favourite Shakespeare play.

The major character is Viola, who after losing her twin brother, is forced to disguise herself as a boy to survive in a strange and hostile land (namely Illyria which is at war with her home county, Messaline). She musters all her courage to hide her pain over the supposed death of her brother. But struggles are not over as she also has to hide her passionate love from Orsino, the Duke of Illyira whom she serves.

Her position is twofold difficult: she soon becomes Orsino's confident, but to ease his sufferings, she undertakes to act as a "courier" for pursuing his hopeless love, the Countess Olivia.

Then comes another Shakespearean turn of the screw: Olivia, who won't hear of Orsino's passion, falls for Cesario/Viola. In the meantime, Sebastian, thinking her beloved sister, Viola is dead, sets for Illyria as well ...

As in comedies, all things messed up will sort themselves out in the end, however, this is not the light kind, the shadow of the tragic is hovering over the whole drama shaped in one of the subplots. The play seems to balance on the very narrow edge of tragedy and comedy all the time despite the many hilarious moments.

Viola is without doubt one of the strongest and feistiest heroines you come to admire: an upright woman, who, despite the disguise she is forced to wear, is the most honest of all, especially compared to the characters of Orsino and Olivia, both of whom are deluding themselves by imaginary feelings.

Via the twin + gender swap plots Shakespeare presents some more nuanced feelings of/for Olivia and Orsino. Self-indulgent and blind as they are, of course they remain blissfully unaware of the homoerotic attachment they have towards Viola: Olivia likes a girl who is dressed up as a boy, while throughout the play we can witness that Orsino is very much drawn to her thinking he is a boy (well, more fun for them and this gives their HEA some spice).
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
499 reviews856 followers
January 1, 2018
December 31, 2017 review

My return to the world of William Shakespeare and my favorite play--though I find Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing to be superior dramatically, neither are as romantic or riotously funny as this--brought me back to my first reread on Goodreads and Twelfth Night. Work on my novel ground to a halt several weeks ago at the halfway mark and I wanted to return to a couple of texts that remind me of why I'm a writer. I also noticed that as of December 30, I was one book short of my 2017 reading challenge, so hopefully, this report ties up a few loose ends.

My system for reviewing plays is to watch a production first, read the play second. I was in for a treat with Twelfth Night, locating a bootleg of the 1998 production by Lincoln Center Theater directed by Nicholas Hytner and starring film and television veterans Helen Hunt (Viola), Paul Rudd (Duke Orsino), Philip Bosco (Malvolio), Kyra Sedgwick (Olivia), Brian Murray (Sir Toby Belch) and David Patrick Kelly (Feste). This production is visually resplendent, but being able to hear a live audience reaction adds tremendously to the viewing experience of a musical comedy, something that British TV productions of Shakespeare do not offer.

What's the draw of Twelfth Night for me? Maybe it's my discovery and delight that most of the sitcoms I grew up on--Three's Company in particular--are just a variation on this 17th century play, where mistaken identity, sexual confusion and eavesdropping gone wrong lead to comedy nirvana. The woman who carries herself as a man and the furor this leaves in her wake, shaking up the status quo, might be a theme that appeals a great deal to me, as is the portrayal of a great comic drunk, with Sir Toby Belch also knocking down perceptions of propriety like bowling pins every time he enters a scene. And it's fuckin' funny.

Act three

Scene 1

Olivia's garden. Viola and Feste, who is carrying a small drum, enter.

Viola Greetings, friend, and your music too. Do you live by drumming?

Feste No, sir. I live by the church.

Viola Are you a cleric?

Feste Not at all, sir. I live by the church because I live at my house, and my house is near the church.

Viola So you could just as well say "The king lives by begging" if a beggar lives near him. Or that the church is near your drum if the drum happens to be near the church.

Feste You've said it, sir! Such are the times! A sentence is just a kid glove to a quick-witted man. It can easily be turned inside out!

Viola Yes, that's true. Those who play about with words can quickly give them indecent meanings.

Feste Therefore I wish my sister had no name, sir.

Viola Why, man?

Feste Why, sir, her name is a word, and to play about with that word might make my sister indecent. But indeed, words truly become rascals since they were disgraced with being bonds.

Viola Your reason, man?

Feste Goodness, sir. I can't give you one without using words, and words have become so unreliable I'm reluctant to use them to prove a reason.

Viola You're a happy-go-lucky fellow. I'll be bound, and you care about nothing.

Feste Not at all, sir. I do care for something. But upon my conscience, sir, I don't care for you. If that's caring about nothing, sir, I wish it would make you invisible.

Viola Aren't you the Lady Olivia's fool?

Feste No indeed, sir. Lady Olivia does not go in for entertainment. She won't have a fool till she's married; and fools are like husbands as sardines are to herrings--the husband's the bigger. Indeed I am not her fool. I'm her corrupter of words.

Other observations on this viewing/reread of the comedy:

-- Viola is the liberated woman of Shakespeare's plays. Neither royal personage nor loyal daughter, she's bound to no one and personified instead by her education and skills set. Shipwrecked in Illyria, she quickly gets a job, emissary of the lovesick bachelor Duke Orsino, confident that she can "sing and speak to him in music." Viola is fluent in French as well, and is able to pass herself off as a boy, Cesario, likely due to her observations of men. Of course, Viola does not account for falling in love with her boss, whose only expectation of Cesario is that the boy woo the Lady Olivia for him. Hijinks ensue.

-- Do you like fools? Shakespearean fools? Those characters whose jesting allows them to speak the truth without their heads ending up on a chopping block? Twelfth Night offers up three classic examples: Feste, the professional fool, willing to sing any song or provide any insight at any hour if there's a purse involved. Sir Toby Belch, the rascal and drunkard, pushing the generosity of his cousin, the Lady Olivia, as far as it will go in the pursuit of a good time. Sir Andrew Aguecheek, a rich dandy who seeks to woo Olivia, carouses with both Sir Toby and Feste, his romantic ineptitude and cowardice providing extensive comic relief.

In the 1998 Lincoln Center Theater production, David Patrick Kelly (whose impressive run of memorable film psychos stretches from The Warriors in the '70s to The Longest Yard in the '00s) and Max Wright (the dad from the '80s sitcom Alf) played Feste and Sir Andrew and got some of the biggest applause and laughs in the play. As much as I light up when Sir Toby bursts onto the scene, he wouldn't be as compelling in soliloquy. These two characters are invaluable when it comes to demonstrating what a Good Time Charlie that his character is.

-- Impossible Love that others find so romantic, like the kind immortalized in Romeo and Juliet, and is sometimes impossible for good reason, isn't to be found in this play, thank god. Instead, Shakespeare seems to be exploring the Possible Love that would exist if characters would take a minute to get it together and drop their facades. Viola must pose as a man to keep her job. Olivia must pose as grief stricken to honor her dead brother. I find Possible Love to be much more compelling because how close I think most people come in real life to experiencing passion and happiness with the right person.

April 9, 2014 review

My game plan for revisiting Shakespeare was to stream video of a staging of the play, listening and watching while reading along to as much of the original text as was incorporated by the staging. Later, I read the entire play in the modern English version.

The staging I found on YouTube was amazing. ITV Saturday Night Theatre: Twelfth Night aired January 6, 1969. It features Alec Guinness as Malvolio, Ralph Richardson as Sir Toby Belch, Joan Plowright as Viola/ Sebastian and Adrienne Corri as Olivia. Each have appeared in some of my favorite movies.

Scholars believe the play was first performed January 6, 1601 as an entertainment for Queen Elizabeth as she hosted an Italian nobleman, Don Virginio Orsino. The date of the staging -- 12 nights after Christmas -- accounts for the title of the play, which has no bearing on the story.

Twelfth Night is set in Illyria, where ruling Duke Orsino, "a noble duke, in nature and in name" is lovesick over the Countess Olivia, who mourns for a dead brother and has spurned all suitors. The play's protagonist Viola comes ashore with a great opening line -- "What country, friends, is this?". Survivor of a shipwreck, she fears her twin brother Sebastian has drowned. Viola needs a job while she plots her next move and the sea captain who rescued her explains Olivia's pursuit by the Duke. Olivia isn't hiring, but Viola sees an opportunity to work for the Duke by disguising herself as a eunuch.

One of my favorite characters in Shakespeare makes his entrance. Sir Toby Belch is Olivia's uncle, a drunken rascal who romances Olivia's whip smart maid Maria, makes enemies of his niece's pompous steward Malvolio and profits from one of her rejected suitors, a knight named Sir Andrew Aguecheek who has more money than brains. Sir Toby exists to eat, drink and play pranks, and his misdemeanors create much of the havoc in the play. In addition, Olivia is served by a fool, Feste, who possesses greater insight and sobriety than Sir Toby but joins him and Maria in their revelry, as well as singing several songs.

The Duke dispatches Viola (going by the name Cesario) to the court of Olivia to woo her on his behalf, but believing the messenger to be a persuasive young man, Olivia falls in love with Viola. This complicates feelings Viola has developed for the Duke. Meanwhile, Malvolio throws such a wet blanket on Sir Toby's fun that Olivia's uncle and maid play a trick on him, writing a love letter in Olivia's hand expressing her undying love for the steward, if he dress in yellow stocking and cross-garters (a fashion which Olivia despises) and harass her servants. Malvolio falls for the trick and comes on like such a lunatic that Olivia orders him locked in a basement.

Not content, Sir Toby plots a trick on Viola and Sir Andrew by making both fear the other wishes to engage in a duel. Sir Toby is confident that Viola is just as timid with a sword as Sir Andrew, but doesn't factor her twin brother Sebastian arriving in Illyria. After being mistaken for his sister and challenged to a fight, Sebastian wallops both Sir Toby and Sir Andrew and when brought before Olivia for his apology, is stunned to find the countess express her love for him. They marry in secret, which poses great problems for Viola when the Duke discovers "she" has married the countess.

Reading this play, it occurred to me that every episode of Three's Company was ripping off Shakespeare. Janet leaves Jack and Chrissy alone in the apartment and fears Jack will make a move on Chrissy, so advises her to play down her attractiveness by dressing in frumpy clothes. Jack instead is more attracted to Chrissy. Then Janet returns to the apartment to find the leftovers of a romantic dinner and Chrissy upset. Janet gets the wrong idea when in fact, Chrissy is upset that Jack didn't make a move! Cue laugh track.

Twelfth Night is downright riotous. The comedy comes from the cascade of doublespeak and near misunderstandings, with one character playing fool to another. Being able to penetrate the language or read the play with asides detailing which character is being made an ass of helps the humor find its mark to a modern idiot like me. The play starts slow, but the laughs continue to build and reach a crescendo when Sebastian enters, mistaken for his twin sister by the various jokers of the play, who end of being played for fools.
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
943 reviews14k followers
September 11, 2017
I liked the dialogue in this one a lot more than the first one we read for class (A Comedy of Errors). I love the whole "girl poses as a guy in order to trick misogynists into letting her participate in their society" trope, and I just in general loved Olivia and Viola as characters, so I was super into this. My only complaint is that the ending wraps up too swiftly for me and a few of the plotlines were just kinda smooshed into one grand finale, but I was left wanting more.

Not the best Shakespeare I've read (but I mean, NOTHING compares to hamlet), but still an enjoyable read that I didn't dread picking up.
Profile Image for Trevor.
1,302 reviews22.1k followers
September 26, 2008
A few years ago I read a review of some film that had come out and I was sure I would never see – read the review almost carelessly while flicking through the arts section of the paper on a Saturday morning, no, I must have been clicking over The Age Home Page. The woman who wrote the review commented that whatever the film was had been based on Twelfth Night – which she considered that most ridiculous of Shakespeare’s plays – she really could not see how anyone could be bothered to reproduce this nonsense of Shakespeare’s based on the all too unfunny humour of cross-dressing and confused sexuality. I emailed Fiona the link with some comment to the effect, “Look at what this stupid bitch has written.”

Did I mention that this review was in The Age – that once great newspaper? If anything symbolises the tragic fall that newspaper has suffered…

Anyway, I’ve been trying to remember when I first saw Twelfth Night on telly. My ex-wife and I were away for a dirty weekend and it must have been before I had started university the first time around – the Physics me. I think it was raining outside (we hadn’t gone for the scenery, so the rain was immaterial) and the hotel room had a television. I lay the wrong way on the bed and flicked to channel two and Felicity Kendal appeared, hooded, on a beach – remarkably dry, all things considered – and I instantly feel madly and helplessly in love, first with her but then much more in love with the play.

I love everything about this play. I love all of the obvious things, the boys falling in love with girls who are dressed as boys but are really girls. I love the girls falling in love with ‘youths’ (even before that word became pejorative and male as my daughter, Fiona is now fond of telling me) who are really girls, but end up married to girls who actually aren’t girls, but also not who they think they are but really the girl’s brother… I love the perfectly controlled and perfectly understandable complexity and messiness of it all.

But most I love that it isn’t just a ‘romantic comedy’ – or perhaps I should lay the stress on ‘just’ in that sentence. There are dark themes operating here that are anything but funny. Sir Toby may be Falstaff and may be the life of the party – but he is also a bastard who uses and abuses those around him without mercy or favour. He is a selfish, self-centred prick – pure and simple. And yet we love him and cheer him on and are putty in his hands. He may be the sort of uncle that we all too often are forced to ask – O, how came you so early by this ‘lethargy’? – when we mean – how the hell can you possibly be so pissed this early in the morning? But still, none of us hope Malvolio will find him hiding out of sight when the letter is carefully left to be found – none of us hope Malvolio will not be fooled by the letter.

All the same at the end when Malvolio is released how is it possible to not feel dreadful for him when he says, “Madam, you had done me wrong, notorious wrong.” When we realise that we have spent the play decidedly not standing in his shoes and now Shakespeare is going to make sure we are aware of just what that has meant for this fellow human being. Yes, still not a loveable character – but a fellow human nonetheless.

I took Fiona to see this when she was about 8 – she is now about 18. It was a week night and a school night and we both rushed up to the theatre at the Arts Centre and both sat transfixed. I’m sure both of us must have worried that this play would prove far beyond what she would be able to understand. I had built it up so much that when it started I thought ‘oh god, I’ll ruin Shakespeare for her for life’. But at the end, when the actors had caught sight of her as the youngest in the audience and clearly made a point of catching her eye and were making a fuss of her from the stage and it was also clear she had understood all of the complications that make the last moments of this play so hilariously funny as she was bursting in gales of uncontrollably laughter, I knew that this would be a moment we would both remember and treasure always. Quality time normally comes from quantity time – but sometimes it can be planned.

Years later – I think on my fortieth birthday – we went again to see a production of the play, this time with Fi, her sister, my parents and my intellectually disabled older sister, and again it proved to be a magical night.

That night, as we were coming out at interval, a woman in front of me turned to the young man she had brought with her to see the play and said, “Of course Malvolio is Italian for Bad Will” – I was studying Italian at the time and thought – “Shit, of course it is, why hadn’t I realised that myself?”. Such are the things directly under my nose that I so rarely see. I’ve never been terribly good at the obvious.

And I love the songs – particularly O Mistress Mine (‘Youth’s the stuff will not endure’, and how true that has proven) – and I love the little jokes and Feste, yes, particularly Feste, who I still think has some of the best lines in the play.

And how could anyone not fall in love with someone who says that their preferred method of wooing you would be to,

Make me a willow cabin at your gate,
And call upon my soul within the house,
Write loyal canton and contemned love,
And sing them loud even in the dead of night;
Holla your name to the reverberate hills,
And make the babbling gossip of the air
Cry out ‘Olivia!’ O, you should not rest
Between the elements of the air and earth,
But you should pity me”?

And understatement of the century (17th of course)

Olivia: You might do much

Too bloody right she/he might do much.

Two more things and then I’m done. The one is where the gardener, Fabian to his friends, waits until we are completely taken in and then slaps us awake with, “If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.” Now, what about that? How much balls would that take to write? If you ever needed proof that great writers are totally unconcerned about whether or not they have allowed you to ‘suspended disbelief’ I think you could hardly look further than this. Shakespeare is so certain we are at the edge of our seats he knows he can laugh at us for being so completely sucked in and we will still barely come up for air.

The other thing is this:

Malvolio: By my life, this is my lady’s hand: these be her very c’s, her u’s and her t’s, and thus makes she her great P’s. It is, in contempt of question, her hand.

Sir Andrew: Her c’s, her u’s and her t’s, why that?

For years, like Sir Andrew, I wondered why that as well. One day I even went to the local library and found a reference book that told me that although this was clearly a joke at the time, the mists that separate us from Will mean we will never know.

In a word: Bollocks.

It is hardly remarkable that we find the same things funny now as they did then – and sexual humour is sexual humour and like a well told fart joke will always be funny. There was a film recently called Into The Cut, that also used the word ‘cut’ as slang for female genitalia and pee is still slang for ‘to urinate’ – none of this is obscure at all. Fortunately, I was able to find a second book in the same library that had not been written in the 1950s and was not nearly so prudish or so reticent to explain what ‘a cut’ was. I’m a bit embarrassed I needed it explained, but I cover it well.

When people ask me what is my favourite play by Shakespeare I always hesitate – I mean, how could I possibly say this one when compared to the utter majesty of Lear or Hamlet? I must review Lear one of these days – no play is as likely to bring tears, no play so horrible and distressing or remarkable or devastatingly good. But the truth is that this play simply isn’t the same thing as Lear – it seems strange to give them the same name ‘play’ and really they can’t be compared. I love them both and possibly even equally – but for entirely different reasons. But it is love. Even the thought of this play makes me smile – it is a pure delight and all the confirmation one needs of the genius that is Shakespeare.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
December 8, 2015
So this one doesn't rank terribly high on the believability scale, but this is still my favorite Shakespeare comedy. It's absurd to have a set of fraternal twins -- brother and sister! -- who look so much alike that people who know them reasonably well can't tell them apart. Shakespeare may not have been entirely clear on the distinction between identical and fraternal twins or, more likely, he just didn't care. But push the Disbelief Suspension button here and just go have fun with this love triangle:
So besides all this Crazy Love, there's other excitement: a shipwreck! (okay, that's before the play actually starts, but still.) Viola washes up on shore, all alone in the world ... well, actually she was rescued by another ship, and the captain has taken a personal interest in her and is giving her some solid advice and help. But they're on the seashore! and she's kind of alone because she's lost her twin brother Sebastian in the shipwreck.

But life goes on, so Viola (prudently, she thinks) disguises herself as a guy, calls herself Cesario and goes to work for Duke Orsino as his page. And then she promptly falls in love with him, which is a little hard to understand because he's dejectedly mooning around his mansion all full of unrequited love for the fair Olivia, but whatever. Probably money, power, good looks his sensitive heart and kind soul appeal to her. All direct appeals for Olivia's heart having failed, Orsino decides to send Viola/Cesario to plead his case, because sending a good-looking guy (even if not really a guy) to speak of matters of love to the object of your affections always works so well. Case in point: Olivia promptly ... well, go look at the above chart again.

Also, in case all this lurve stuff bores you, we have some practical joking going on: Olivia has an arrogant steward named Malvolio, and Olivia's uncle Sir Toby Belch has had it with him. So he recruits another rejected suitor of Olivia, name of Andrew Aguecheek (yes, these are the real names) and another person or two to prank Malvolio, because what we really needed here was one more guy chasing after the fair Olivia. Their punking of him gradually gets increasingly cruel.

Things really get whipped into a froth when This throws a massive wrench into the works before everyone speedily settles down with the right person. Whew!

The comedic subplot with Olivia's arrogant steward Malvolio being taken down a notch or twenty by the pranks of Sir Toby and Sir Andrew is pretty humorous, though, depending on whether you can muster up any sympathy for Malvolio at all, you may be squirming in your seat by the end.

Thanks to Anne for her hilarious review of this play and for reminding me of it!
Profile Image for Samra Yusuf.
60 reviews401 followers
May 28, 2017
Twelfth night being the last comedy of William Shakespeare, is highly acclaimed and panned at equal measures. We come to peruse and praise his literary genius through his artistic handling of different themes packed in one play. On the surface, the play exhibits traces of mistaken identity, deception, Lovesickness, melancholy, desire and abundance, gender and sex, master and servant, but on the broader canvass, the colors are more vivid and glaring laden with undercurrent meanings of these themes.
Where, fools are philosophers and dukes are idiotic, where an effeminate pageboy of the duke is more appealing to countess than the duke himself, where drunken dumbheads are predators and sober generals forcefully proved crazy, and where woman when attired in men’s dress, are valued more. In such society, twelfth night is a penance to those who delight in it as comedy!!

Profile Image for Mohajerino.
129 reviews35 followers
October 24, 2020
از متفاوت ترین نمایشنامه‌های شکسپیر!
نمایشنامه‌ای که خصیصه‌های انسانی را با حالتی طنز به تحریر درآورده

ترجمه حمید الیاسی
چاپ 1390

ترجمه سخت ادبیاتی بود وبعضی مواقع،ارتباط قطع میشد
ارتباط با شخصیت ها سخت بود وفقط با بطن داستان پیش میرفتم
بهتر است ترجمه دیگری را نیز امتحان کنم
Profile Image for Alan.
Author 6 books302 followers
July 29, 2021
Here Shakespeare borrows as so often in his comedies, from Plautus for the overarching plot--the separated siblings, the twinning (recall his Errors, and the Menaechmi), the arrival from sea. But he adds so much as to make it unrecognizable as a Roman comedy. He adds an attractive drunk, Sir Toby, who fleeces a silly aristocrat who--perhaps alone in literature-- knows himself to be silly. (Sir Andrew prides himself on recognizing, "I knew 'twas I, for many do call me fool"II.v.80.) The Bard also adds a parody of Renaissance psychiatry (well, more theology*, but since "psyche" in Greek is both "soul" and "mind," that's fair) practiced on Shakespeare's only American. Instead of the common psyche ward question, "What does 'the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence' mean to you?" Feste as Reverend Psychiatrist asks, "What is the opinion of Pythagoras concerning the soul?" Remember, you can't get out of the psyche ward unless you answer right. Well, Malvolio DOES get it right, he hits it out of the park, "that the soul of our grandam might inhabit a bird" Iv.ii.54). Feste keeps him in lockdown anyway. Why?

Herein lies a tale. Malvolio is portrayed as stark raving mad simply because he wants to marry the boss's daughter--or really, the boss herself. A crazy idea. An American idea, one that would take a couple centuries and a Revolution to be accepted by anybody at all. Those rejects on the other side of the Atlantic.
Yes, Malvolio is Shakespeare's only American (except possibly Othello?). And he is indeed, as he himself pleads at plays end, notoriously abused. He vows revenge on the whole pack--which we, as delighted playgoers, cannot support, though justice, and America, are on his side.

Feste the Fool speaks with great wit, one line I've said of myself for decades. When asked how he does, the Fool says, "The better for my foes, and the worse for my friends"(IV.ii.94). The Duke asks, surely, the better for thy friends. Feste explains, "No, they praise me and make an ass of me. My foes tell me plainly I am an ass, so that by my foes, sir, I profit..." The Duke reacts, "Why, this is excellent" as indeed it is. Shakespere rarely remarks on his own brilliance.

Marriage, a religious ceremony, was forbidden onstage at the time, though all modern film directors ignore that. Other Renaissance ceremonies are abridged, like Olivia's mourning. But tokens and gifts abound, especially rings which commemorate vows. Most in the canon here. Viola/Cesario is given two, one by messnger, one to deliver to Olivia, in the first few scenes, five in all, though Sebastian intercepts two. Gratiano later diminishes his quarrel, and its subject a ring for its simple inscription,
"About a hoop of gold, a paltry ring
That she did give me, whose posy was
For all the world like cutler's poetry
Upon a knife, 'Love me, and leave me not'" (V.i.147ff)
The words may be diminished, but for the audience, the ring can not: as token for meaning an offstage marriage. Engagement rings were not necessarily gold; in Roman times, Pliny says they were iron (Schiffer, 221) Diamonds did not feature until centuries later, roughly once DeBeers monopolized them. [See my article, "Early modern Rings and Vows in TN," in Schiffer, "Twelfth Night: New Critical Essays." 2011.]

As always Shakespeare anticipates recent modern insights, such as the "objectification of women," here Malvolio complains of objectification, "They have propertied me" (IV.ii.94). Yes, Shakespeare once again has the better word for it.

Music takes prominence, too, and ceremonial dance, though the best dancer is shown to be foolish--not sexist, because he's Sir Andrew. The Duke opens the play, "If music be the food of love, play on," and again, "Give me some music.../ Now good Cesario, that piece of song" (II.iv). Viola / Cesario earns her place at court, and as messenger by her singing. She delivers rings and vows, as well as song.
Perhaps Shakespeare invented the Musical, except that aristocratic entertainment at the time featured the Masque, with music throughout, though serious roles for those same aristocrats onstage. The Bard's competitor Ben Jonson wrote many, like the Masque of Blackness, and the Masque of the Queen. The Bard's Tempest includes a brief masque, with goddesses like Iris, of the Rainbow. Not comedies like TN and musicals since Gilbert and Sullivan to Lerner and Lowe

*Re-reading TN at Easter, '21, I find the Clown/Fool proving Olivia a Fool. He quizzes her, "Why mourns thou?" She, "Good Fool, for my brother's death."
He, "I think his soul is in hell, madonna."
"I know his soul is in heaven."
He,"The more fool, madonna, to mourn for your brother's soul, being in heaven. Take away the fool."
Profile Image for human.
641 reviews1,016 followers
January 8, 2022

This was enjoyable, if somewhat chaotic. It's like the literal manifestation of everything my shelf "love-webs" stands for, plus that one jester dude.

Honestly, though, I think that Viola and Oliva should have ended up together instead of Olivia ending up with Sebastian (who I'm 100% convinced she married only because he's just the male version of Viola), and Viola ending up with Orsino (which I don't approve of but Shakespeare didn't ask me before writing this, did he?). Also, I'm pretty sure there was some unrequited love thing going on between Antonio and Sebastian, don't try to convince me otherwise.

Anyhow, I had a fun time reading this, even if I was a bit confused.

#therapyformalvolio (he might have been annoying and a pompous arse but he didn't deserve what he got)
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,599 reviews8,730 followers
August 24, 2017
"If you be not mad, be gone; if you have reason, be brief."
- William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night


I liked it, but didn't love it.

Positives: I always like Shakespeare's gender benders. The Bard enjoys not playing characters straight. He doesn't want a love story or even a love triangle, Shakespeare wants to explore all the tangents, the lines, and the angles of love's many geometries. He is a great experimenter of the human soul. He is the Faraday of romance, unsatisfied until he has teased out all the attractions and repulsions possible.

Negatives: I'm not a fan of Shakespeare's musical comedies. I don't include A Midsummer Night's Dream on this list, because I consider that play to be one of Shakespeare's great LYRICAL plays (along with Richard II and Romeo and Juliet). Anyway, anytime Shakespeare's actors start singing and dancing, I want to use that time/space to grab a popcorn or pee. Just not my jam.

Favorite Lines:

"If music be the food of love, play on." (Act 1, Scene 1)

“Better a witty fool, than a foolish wit.” (Act 1, Scene 5)

“Well, God give them wisdom that have it; and those that are fools, let them use their talents.” (Act 1, Scene 5)

“Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage.” (Act 1, Scene 5)

“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” (Act 2, Scene 5)

“I say there is no darkness but ignorance.” (Act 4, Scene 2)
Profile Image for Kate.
1,243 reviews2,226 followers
January 16, 2019
second time reading it and still a great play! I always enjoy Shakespeare's comedies but this one seems to feel especially humorous to me

this was pretty great! I've never read this play by Shakespeare and I thoroughly enjoyed it for the hyjinks and craziness that happened! I loved the fact that thoroughout the majority of this play, since there were not very many female actresses in SP's time, there is a boy, dressing up as a girl, who is dressing up as a boy. Pretty funny stuff here, William. Also the lesbians. Also it was just really funny - I adore Shakespeare's comedy plays!
Profile Image for Kaylin (The Re-Read Queen).
425 reviews1,641 followers
February 7, 2017
4 Stars


"Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them."

While not his most well-known work, The Twelfth Night is certainly one of my favorite works by Shakespeare. I've always enjoyed his comedies more than his tragedies, and this one was filled with his trademark wit and crazy situations


Shakespeare loved him some wordplay, and as always, it's masterful. The jokes were quick and hilarious, while still revealing things about the characters-- such as Sir Andrews misunderstanding of the word "accost" allowing the audience to learn how truly "refined" he is.

While this was most certainly a comedy, there were several gorgeous passages dedicated to love and life, and I found Shakespeare's prose as beautiful and smooth as ever.

This whole play revolves around Viola, a young lady who survives a shipwreck and decides to get ahead in life by dressing as a man and the antics that result from this. In itself this was quite funny, but I loved imagining it the way Shakespeare intended. With an all male cast, Viola would have been a man playing a woman playing a man.

Who do I have to pay to get a retelling where Antonio and Sebastian end up together?


Parts of this felt like Shakespeare just wanted to cut to the action, so most of the build-up or character motivation was just glossed over. For instance, why does Viola dress as a man? We're told it's to get ahead in the world, but how she plans on doing that just never made sense to me.

Quite a few dated jokes-- which seems like a ridiculous complaint to make about something written in 1602, but it did impact my enjoyment of the story. I had to suspend disbelief that there could be a pair of fraternal twins who looked so alike people could confuse them. And one particular vulgar joke relies upon Elizabethan slang for a woman's lady bits.

In Conclusion:

As always, Shakespeare is the king of wit, and this was hilarious-- even if a bit rushed or absurd in places.
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