Twelfth Night

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Twelfth Night

by William Shakespeare

Wiliiam Shakespeare was an English playwright, dramatist, and poet. He created some of the world's most literary plays and has achieved greatness in theatre and literature. Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night around 1599 to 1601. Twelfth Night is a comedy that explored many themes and issues that are intricate. Twelfth Night takes place in a mythical land called Illyria. One of the earliest performances for Twelfth Night was in 1602. Also, The Globe Theatre, where many of Shakespeares plays have been shown, was constructed in 1599.

Viola, the main character, gets shipwrecked and has to dress up as man to work in the Duke Orsino's court. Viola falls in love with the Duke, but he is in love with the countess Olivia. Cesario, which is Viola disguised as a man, goes to the countess to declare the Duke's love for her. Olivia, however, falls in love with Cesario instead! The story quickly escalated to become a complicated love triangle. One of the plot twists is when Sebastian, Viola's twin brother who she had thought was dead from the shipwreck, comes to Illyria after he had been saved by a friend. He also seeks work with the Duke and everyone mistakes him as Cesario. When Sebastian meets Olivia, he falls in love with her and is suddenly asked to marry Olivia, which in turn he says yes. In Twelfth Night, there are also many examples of cause and effect. For example, Maria, Olivia's main housemaid, writes a love letter to Malvolio, the other head servant, in Olivia's handwriting. In turn, Malvolio does what the letter had said and dresses up with yellow stockings, cross-gartered, a style back in that time that wasn't very appealing, and acts in a way that is inappropriate in the time of Olivia's mourning for her brother's death.

In Twelfth Night, irony is a very important piece that helps to make the plot interesting. Dramatic irony is the most common irony that is shown in the play. Dramatic irony is when the audience knows what is happening or what is going to happen but the character(s) in the story don't know about it. For example, the audience knows that Viola is dressed up as a man and is working for the Duke, but the characters in the play are unaware that she is actually a woman. So that is why Olivia falls in love with her and also why she can't tell the Duke she loves him. Another example of dramatic irony is when Sebastian arrives in Illyria and also works for the Duke. He is constantly mistaken for Cesario because they are twins and look alike. At the same time, Cesario, or Viola, is also mistaken for Sebastian. The characters are unaware of who is who at this point and it creates a humorous scene for the audience.

There are two types of characterization, direct and indirect characterization. Direct characterization is when the author states what the character is like. An example would be, "Viola is heartbroken." Indirect characterization is when the author shows what the character is like. An example would be, "Viola, sobbing, looked like she was broken as she ran off." In Twelfth Night, Viola had changed throughout the whole play. Viola disguised herself as a man to work for the Duke but has fallen in love with him and had also caused Olivia to fall in love with her. This caused Viola to worry but she leaves it all in the hands of fate to decide what will happen. Then, later, Sebastian appears and takes over her role of being a man. Then Viola is finally able to be a woman again and is now able to tell Orsino. Viola has made many changes throughout the story or play.

Allusion and symbolism are included in Twelfth Night and they help to develop a plot and understanding of the play. Allusion is a reference to mythology, a historical event, science, a religion, etc. Symbolism is a symbol or object that represents an idea. An example of symbolism is Olivia's gifts to Cesario and Sebastian. She gives Cesario a ring and tells Malvolio to tell him that he may use the ring for money or whatever he wants to do with it. Then, later in the play, Olivia gives Sebastian a precious pearl, mistaking him for Cesario, hoping it will make him not mad at her anymore. Both of the gifts symbolize that Olivia will buy Cesario's love if she can't win it. Another example of symbolism in Twelfth Night is the darkness of Malvolio's prison. The darkness symbolizes his madness and insanity when he goes up to Olivia in an inappropriate way. An example of an allusion is when Sir Toby says, "To the gates of Tartar, thou most excellent devil of wit!" (Act 2 ; Scene 5) to Maria. He is commenting on her cleverness and the allusion is to the Greek underworld, Tartarus, or in this case, the gates of Tartar.

Twelfth Night

William Shakespeare


Allusion & Symbolism



In the part of scene four that is shown in the video, Sir Andrew has written a letter of challenge to Cesario because he is angry that he is taking Olivia. Sir Toby reads the letter of aggresive remarks and tells Sir Andrew to find Cesario and draw his sword to fight him when he does. Fabian comments that the letter doesn't make sense at times although it does sound courageous. Then Sir Andrew leaves and Sir Toby rips the letter saying he'll just tell Cesario by word instead because the letter is nonsense.

Video: Act 3, Scene 4


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