Twelfth Night, Or What You Will

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Twelfth Night, Or What You Will

Twelfth Night, Or What You Will

A Glog by Isaiah Challenger and Ayush Satyal

Twelfth Night, or Twelfth Night, Or What You Will is one of the seventeen comedies written by William Shakspeare.

Who He Was

Historical Context


Allusions, Symbolism

Video, Commentary

Works Cited

William Shakespeare was a famous English poet and playwright. He was born in Warwickshire; although his precise birthdate is not known, it is believed by many historians to be the 21st, 22nd, or 23rd of April, 1564. William had four sisters and three brothers, but only two of them lived to adulthood. Historians also believe that Shakespeare may have received education at Kings New School. On November 28, 1582, William married Anne Hathaway, a young woman from the outskirts of Stratford-upon-Avon (alternative name for Shakespeare's provenance). They had three children, Susanna, and twins, Hamnet and Judith (Hamnet died at age 11). Shakespeare wrote a total of 37 plays in his lifetime, all of which were performed at the Globe Theater. William Shakespeare died at about the age of 52, April 23, 1616 in Warwickshire, or Stratford-upon-Avon. His most famous works include Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Midsummer Night's Dream, and Twelfth Night.

Twelfth Night is a comedy set in the fictional Greek land of Illyria, although the historical context of the play resides in England, at the twelfth night of Christmas. On this day in England, people take down the Christmas decorations and feast. This celebration dates back to the Roman Saturnalia. The play is comedic, mostly because of the celebrations observed in England. The historical twelfth night was a time of joy and festivity, and the play's tone deviates greatly from Shakespeare's tragedies.

Three Types of Irony

There are three kinds of irony: verbal, situational, and dramatic.Verbal: a writer makes a statement in which the actual meaning differs from the meaning that the word appears to express.Situational: irony that occurs when the exact opposite of what is meant to happen, happens.Dramatic: a narrative in which the reader knows something about the present or future circumstances that one or more characters in the story does not know.Examples in Twelfth Night:Verbal: When Sir Andrew mistakes the word "accost" for Maria's last name.Situational: When Viola goes to Olivia's domain as Cesario to woo her for Orsino, the countess instead falls in love with Cesario.Dramatic: When Sebastian thinks that his sister is dead, the audience knows otherwise.

Allusions: references to something in current events, on television, in literature, and other forms of media.Examples in Twelfth Night:->Viola makes a reference to paradise (Elysium) when she thinks thtat her brother is dead.->Jove is a reference to Roman mythology, and is mentioned many times.->Mercury, messenger god of Roman mythology.->Lethe, river of forgetfulness, Greek mythology.->Jezebel, wife of Ahab, king of Israel.Symbolism: the practice or art of using an object or a word to represent an abstract idea; actions, people, places, words, and objects can all have symbolic meanings. Symbolism is used by writers to enhance their writing, and can give a literary work more vibrancy and color, while increasing the depth of the work's meaning.Examples:1: When Malvolio is imprisoned, the darkness of the cell is supposed to represent his insanity, as others insist that the room is in fact bright and lit.2: Olivia, throughout the play, tries to let Cesario know that she loves "him", the first time by trying to give "him" a ring. When she mistakes Sebastian for Cesario, she gives him a pearl.

Peter, Holland. "Shakespeare, William 1564-1616." Biography Reference Center. EBSCO, 2010. Web. 18 May 2014. .Hacht, Anne M., ed. "Twelfth Night - Shakespeare for Students: Critical Interpretations of Shakespeare's Plays and Poetry." Literature Criticism Online. Gale, 2007. Web. 26 May 2014. .Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night, Or, What You Will. Ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 1993. Print.Amir, Ala D. "Dramatic Irony in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night." University of Missan. College of Education, Journal of Missan Researches, 2008. Web. 26 May 2014. .

Plot: The plot of Twelfth Night is formed by the varied emotions between characters, like sadness and confusion. In the beginning of the play, Duke Orsino is longing for Olivia, a countess whose brother recently has died. Although he sends many messengers to try to win the countess over, Olivia rejects every one of them, and instead tells them that she will continue to stay in mourning for her brother for the next seven years, in which she refuses to be seen by any man wishing to court her. Around this time in the play, Viola, one of the twins, comes to Illyria after being shipwrecked. In order to earn money, she dresses as a man. Viola, then Cesario, begins working for Orsino, who she soon falls in love with. However, being one of the duke's messengers, Viola finds herself trying to woo Olivia for the duke. Olivia later is in love with Cesario, Viola's disguise. Another part of the plot, separate from the existing one of confusion, is also comprised of different characters. This is when Maria, a servant is led by Olivia's uncle, Sir Toby Belch, to seek revenge on the steward, Malvolio. Maria forges a letter so that it looks like it was written by Olivia, the contents of which tell him to wear "cross-gartered [yellow] stockings, and appear in front of Olivia smiling" (Shakespeare 46). Believing the letter, he did as it told him. He wore cross-gartered stockings, an outdated method of holding up stockings, which are yellow (Olivia's least favorite color), and presented them in front of her, smiling (inappropriate to smile in the presence of someone grieving). Making him seem insane, Maria advises Olivia to take him away. She then has Sir Toby deal with Malvolio, who is then locked by the uncle in a dark, unlit room. At the same time of these events, Viola's presumably dead brother, Sebastian, arrives in Illyria when he is saved by Antonio, a wanted man in the duke’s land. Sebastian’s appearance alone makes things more complicated, as Viola’s twin roams the countryside. He soon stumbles into the countess’ domain, where he is almost immediately jabbed at by Sir Andrew, thinking him a coward. He is saved by Olivia, who wants to marry him. He agrees, exits, just as Viola, disguised as Cesario arrives. This complication is later resolved. In the end, Viola is married to Orsino, and Sebastian is married to Olivia.

Characterization:Direct: Direct characterization is when a character's traits are directly specified.Indirect: When the character's personality traits revolve around their actions.One character that I find changing many times throughout the play is the countess, Olivia. In the beginning of the play, she is made out to be a very stubborn, willing character, who adheres to mourning and shunning love. As the play progresses, however, she meets Cesario and finds herself losing the ability to stay away from love.


In this video, the twins of Twelfth Night finally reunite at the end of the play, creating an amazing plot twist. All of the characters, creating even more dramatic irony, are incredibly shocked at the reunition of the twins.


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