Twelfth Night by William
Shakespeare
Comedy
Definition – a comedic play has at least one humorous character, and a
successful or happy ending.
 Characteristics of …

The main action is about love.
The would-be lovers must overcome obstacles and misunderstandings
before being united in harmonious union. The ending frequently involves
a parade of couples to the altar and a festive mood or actual celebration
(expressed in dance, song, feast, etc.) Twelfth Night has three such couples.
 Frequently (but not always), it contains elements of the improbable, the
fantastic, the supernatural, or the miraculous, e.g. unbelievable
coincidences, improbable scenes of recognition/lack of recognition, willful
disregard of the social order (nobles marrying commoners, beggars changed
to lords), instantaneous conversions (the wicked repent), enchanted or
idealized settings, supernatural beings (witches, fairies, Gods and
Goddesses). The happy ending may be brought about through supernatural
or divine intervention (comparable to the deus ex machina in classical
comedy, where a God appears to resolve the conflict) or may merely involve
improbable turns of events.
 In the best of the mature comedies, there is frequently a philosophical
aspect involving weightier issues and themes: personal identity; the
importance of love in human existence; the power of language to help or
hinder communication; the transforming power of poetry and art; the
disjunction between appearance and reality; the power of dreams and
illusions).


Twelfth Night: What does the title
refer to?
The play was written as a Christmas season
production for presentation on Epiphany – the
twelfth night after Christmas, when, according
to religious tradition, Jesus was introduced to
the world.
 It is a time for celebrating, gifts are exchanged,
and parties and other celebrations occur.
 The full title of the play is Twelfth Night, or,
What You Will – i.e. “Call it anything you
choose.”

Twelfth Night
Type of work: play
(Shakespeare also wrote: poetry)
 Genre: comedy
 Time written: between 1600-1602
 Place written: England
 Tone: Light, cheerful, comic; occasionally frantic and
melodramatic, especially in the speeches of Orsino and
Olivia.
 Tense: Present (the entire story is told through dialogue)
 Setting (time): Unknown
 Setting (place): The mythical land of Illyria (Illyria is a
real place, corresponding to the coast of present-day
Yugoslavia, but Twelfth Night is clearly set in a fictional
kingdom rather than a real one.)

Twelfth Night Characters:

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Viola (a.k.a. Cesario)
Duke Orsino
Olivia
Sebastian
Malvolio
Feste
Sir Toby Belch
 Maria
 Sir Andrew
Aguecheek
 Antonio

1. Viola

woman
A young ___________
of aristocratic birth.
Washes up on the shore of Illyria when her ship
wrecked
is ___________
in a storm, she decides to
maker her own way in the world. She disguises
man
herself as a _______,
calling herself “Cesario,”
and becomes a page to Duke Orsino. She ends
falling in love
up ___________
with Orsino, while the woman
Orsino loves, falls in love with Cesario. Now she
finds herself trapped: she cannot tell Orsino that
she loves him and she cannot tell Olivia why
she, as Cesario, cannot lover her. Her dilemma
is the central conflict to the play.
2. Duke Orsino

romantic
A __________
nobleman in the country of
Illyria
__________.
He is lovesick for the beautiful
Lady Olivia, but finds herself more and more
fond of his handsome new page, Cesario, who is
woman
actually a __________
- Viola. He mopes
around complaining how heartsick he is over
Olivia, when it is clear that he is chiefly in love
idea
being in love
with the _________
of _______________
and
enjoys making a spectacle of himself.
3. Olivia

witty/intelligent
A _____________,
beautiful, and noble Illyrian lady, she
is __________
by Orsino and Sir Andrew Aguecheeck,
disgusted
but to each of them she insists that she is in
mourning
brother
__________
for her __________,
who has recently
died
marry
7
__________
and will not __________
for _____
years.
She and Orsino are similar characters in that each seems
misery
to enjoy wallowing in his or her own __________.
Viola’s
arrival in the masculine disguise of Cesario enables Olivia
to break free of her self-indulgent melancholy. Olivia
seems to have no difficulty transferring her affections
love interest
from one _______________
to the next, however,
suggesting that her romantic feelings – like most
emotions in the play – do not run terribly deep.
4. Sebastian

twin brother
Viola’s lost ____________.
When he
arrives in Illyria, traveling with Antonio,
his close friend and protector, he
discovers how many people seem to think
know him
that they ____________.
Furthermore,
the beautiful Lady Olivia, whom he has
marry him
never met, wants to ____________.
5. Malvolio

The straitlaced head servant in the household of
Lady Olivia. He is very efficient but also very
self-righteous
____________,
and he has a poor opinion of
singing
joking
drinking, __________,
and __________.
His
haughty attitude earn him the enemies of Sir
Toby, Sir Andrew, and Maria who play a cruel
trick
__________
on him, making believe that Olivia
is in love with him
__________________.
In his dreams about
marrying his mistress, he reveals a powerful
social standing
ambition to rise above his _________________.
6. Feste

clown
fool
The _________
or __________
of Olivia’s
household; he moves between Olivia’s and
makes his money
Orsino’s homes. He ________________
by making pointed jokes, singing old
songs, being generally witty, and offering
good advice
___________
cloaked under a layer of
sarcasm
__________.
In spite of being a
fool
professional __________,
he often seems
the wisest character in the play.
7. Sir Toby Belch

Sir Toby
uncle
Olivia’s __________.
Olivia lets ___________
Belch lives with her, but she does not
approve
dancing/singing
__________
of his rowdy behavior, __________,
heavy drinking, late-night carousing, or friends
(specifically the idiotic Sir Andrew). He also
earns the anger of Malvolio, but he has an ally,
mate
and eventually a __________,
in Olivia’s
witty
__________
serving-woman Maria. Together
they bring about the demise/downfall
__________ of the
controlling, self-righteous Malvolio.
8. Maria

loyal
witty
Olivia’s __________,
__________,
young
serving-woman. She is remarkably similar
to her antagonist, Malvolio, who harbors
rising in social class
aspirations of _______________
through
marriage
__________.
She succeeds where
Malvolio fails.
9. Sir Andrew Aguecheek

“friend”
A __________
of Sir Toby’s. He attempts
court
to __________
Olivia but he doesn’t
stand a chance
_______________.
He thinks he is witty,
strong
smart
__________,
__________,
and good at
dancing
languages and __________,
but he is
idiot
actually an __________.
10. Antonio

A man who rescues Sebastian after
shipwreck
Sebastian’s __________.
He is very fond
of Sebastian, caring for him,
accompanying him to Illyria, and
money
furnishing him with __________.
He is
also an enemy of Duke Orsino.
Other characters…
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Fabian – servant to Olivia; friend to Maria, Sir
Toby, and Andrew. Assists in the practical joke
on Malvolio.
Valentine – gentleman attending to the Duke
Curio – gentleman attending to the Duke
Priest - (named Sir Topas); he marries Olivia to
“Cesario;” he is impersonated by Feste.
Captain (sea captain) – assists Viola (helps
disguise Viola as Cesario)
A Closer Look at the play…

Plot Summary: In Twelfth Night, as in
most of his works, Shakespeare has
several different plot-lines going on at the
same time. He expertly weaves these
separate stories together throughout the
play. As the play begins to move towards
its conclusion the different stories begin to
converge until they all come together for a
resolution in the final scenes.
Dramatic Structure
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Problem
Major Conflict (__________):
Viola is in love with Orsino,
who is in love with Olivia, who is in love with Viola’s
male disguise, Cesario. This __________
love triangle is complicated
by the fact that neither Orsino nor Olivia knows that
woman
Cesario is really a __________
(Viola).
Rising Action
confusion
_____________:
The mounting __________,
mistaken identities
professions of love
___________________,
and _______________,
leading
up to Act V.
Climax
Sebastian
Viola
reunited
__________:
__________
and ________
are ________,
and everyone realizes that Cesario is a woman.
Falling Action
prepares to marry
___________:
Viola _______________
Orsino; Malvolio
vows revenge
is freed and _______________.
__________________:
Denouement/Resolution Everyone goes off to celebrate.
Themes
suffering
Love
__________
as a cause of _________
 The uncertainty of gender
folly
ambition
 The _____
of __________
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