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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare published in the late 16th century, it’s a fun romp involving mistaken identities, secret admirers, and miscommunication galore. When a woman named Viola gets separated from her twin brother Sebastian in a shipwreck, she disguises herself as a man to survive. Shenanigans ensue as love triangles and misunderstandings abound! Shakespeare always knew how to keep audiences entertained with his witty wordplay. Give this classic drama a read for some holiday cheer with your cup of cocoa.

A short summary of Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night is a comedy written in the late 16th century by the legendary William Shakespeare. After being separated from her twin brother Sebastian during a shipwreck, Viola decides to disguise herself as a man called Cesario to stay safe in Illyria. She ends up working for Duke Orsino, who sends her to profess his love to the beautiful Countess Olivia. But Olivia ends up falling for Cesario! Meanwhile, Sebastian shows up, and more mistaken identities and hijinks ensue. With lovers pining after the wrong people and disguises aplenty, Twelfth Night is a fun rom-com classic that’ll have you chuckling at Shakespeare’s wit.

Themes of Twelfth Night

Identity and Disguise

Disguises drive much of the comedy as characters mistake one another, raising questions about the mutability and legitimacy of outward identity.

Love and Infatuation

Characters fall swiftly into and out of love, satirizing how emotions can lead people to contradiction and the irrationality of romantic passion.

Social Class and Hierarchy

Characters regularly challenge expectations of status, as when Viola temporarily upends Illyria’s social order while disguised as Cesario.

Deception and Manipulation

Intentional and accidental deception feature heavily, stirring rule-bending hijinks yet threatening outward order through failed recognitions.

Reversals of Fortune

Changes in fortune propel the plot, easing existential fears by showing life’s unpredictability need not spell doom through adaptability.

Gender Identity

Implicit in Viola’s cross-dressing lies commentary on gender norms, appearance versus essence, and the fluidity of such social constructs.

Festive Indulgence

Excessive merrymaking indulges “unruly” impulses tolerated solely in Carnival season’s suspended social constraints.

Reason Versus Emotion

Emotions dominate yet threaten reason; control over inner and outward life remains precarious even for nobles in privileged positions.

Language and Perception

Characters’ earnest words routinely miss their mark, granting language an imperfect power over shared understandings and realities.

Major characters in Twelfth Night

Here are analyses of some major characters in Twelfth Night:


Shipwrecked and disguised as Cesario, Viola attracts unwitting love from Olivia and Orsino, commenting on fluid gender norms while driving much of the humour through mistaken identities.


A countess who spurns Orsino’s suit until falling for Cesario/Viola, questioning love’s rationality and Satan’s ability to sometimes assume heavenly form.


The duke pining for Olivia who finds his affections redirected to the fetching Cesario, becoming love’s capricious victim and exploring erotic attraction’s complexities.


Viola’s twin whose resemblance to her allows their mistaken substitution, underscoring the constructed nature of individual identity troubled by similarity.


The pretentious steward is fooled by a fabricated love letter from Olivia, turning him into a figure of ridicule targeting pomposity and humourless puritanism.

Sir Toby Belch

A debauched uncle of Olivia, he leads fun yet risky revelries challenging social mores despite titles, showing liberty’s temptations for nobility.


Olivia’s wise-cracking lady-in-waiting whose trick on Malvolio delights in his comeuppance, participating freely in Carnival’s suspension of hierarchical bounds.

Minor characters in Twelfth Night

Here are analyses of some minor characters in Twelfth Night:


Maria’s co-conspirator aids in tricking Malvolio, representing the role of ordinary citizens like servants in briefly levelling social strictures during holidays.


The clown who sings and jests his way through proceedings, highlighting humour’s coping role when realities disrupt yet convention resists permanent change.


Presides over the wedding of Olivia and Sebastian/Viola at the play’s end, reinforcing social mores yet signalling communal reconciliation after private reorderings.

Sea Captain

Provides exposition on Viola and Sebastian’s separation, moving the plot yet withdrawn as Illyria’s natives navigate internalized emotional challenges.


Orsino’s attendant relays his master’s declarations yet bears no torches himself, mirroring subsidiary yet indispensable supporting roles’ contributions.


The sea captain who rescues Viola yet vanishes after one scene, underscoring transitory figures impacting protagonists yet removed from end resolutions.

These characters add fun, commentary and necessary functions to Shakespeare’s delightfully twisty romantic comedy.

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