Although fifteenth-century England had been a time of grave civil unrest and violence, by the time Shakespeare achieved prominence during Elizabeth and James’ reigns it was enjoying a period of socio-political security and respect for the arts. Queen Elizabeth’s reign extended from 1558 until 1603, when she was succeeded by the Scottish King James. Shakespeare received the patronage of both monarchs during his career as a playwright.
Elizabeth’s reign was not without its tensions. There was an intense religious climate in which the Queen had to act decisively. The religious tensions that existed during Elizabeth’s reign continued during James’ reign, when he was pitted against the Puritans. England had gone to war with Spain. In other foreign affairs, the Queen was moderate, practicing a prudent diplomatic neutrality. There were, however, several plots on her life.
There was also evidence of progress. The nation experienced a commercial revolution. Elizabeth’s government instituted two important social measures: “the Statute of Artificers” and the “Poor Laws,” both of which were aimed at helping the people displaced and hurt by changing conditions. Laws were passed to regulate the economy. Explorers started to venture into the unknown for riches and land. The machinery of government was transformed. The administrative style of government replaced the household form of leadership.
The Elizabethan Age was an age...
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In this section:
- Shakespeare’s Language
- Shakespeare’s Sentences
- Shakespeare’s Words
- Shakespeare’s Wordplay
- Shakespeare’s Dramatic Verse
- Implied Stage Action
Shakespeare’s language can create a strong pang of intimidation, even fear, in a large number of modern-day readers. Fortunately, however, this need not be the case. All that is needed to master the art of reading Shakespeare is to practice the techniques of unraveling uncommonly-structured sentences and to become familiar with the poetic use of uncommon words. We must realize that during the 400-year span between Shakespeare’s time and our own, both the way we live and speak has changed. Although most of his vocabulary is in use today, some of it is obsolete, and what may be most confusing is that some of his words are used today, but with slightly different or totally different meanings. On the stage, actors readily dissolve these language stumbling blocks. They study Shakespeare’s dialogue and express it dramatically in word and in action so that its meaning is graphically enacted. If the reader studies Shakespeare’s lines as an actor does, looking up and...
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Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*Illyria. Region on the east shore of the Adriatic Sea, between Italy and Greece. Its history is marked by waves of conquering invaders, from early Slavs to Ottoman Turks. In William Shakespeare’s time, Illyria—still part of the Ottoman Empire—was a group of city-states controlled by Venice. In the play, Illyria is distinctly Italianate, making for an atmosphere that is congenial to romance, with the seacoast providing an apt setting for plot conveniences of shipwreck, separated twins (Viola and Sebastian), and exotic adventures. At Illyria, fantasies and dreams are realized, and lessons are learned. There Viola is transformed from a woman to a man to “Orsino’s mistress,” and there she is finally able to live in an earthly Elysium.
Duke’s palace. Site of romantic sentimentality. The duke revels in wordplay and music, which feed his passion. The palace is also a site of ambiguous sexual identity, as shown by Viola’s disguise as Cesario.
House of Olivia
House of Olivia. House modeled on the English system of servants and retainers with prescribed duties. On one hand, there is the mourning figure of Olivia, and the humorless, austere, proud figure of her steward, Malvolio, the epitome of all puritans. On the other, there are Fabian and Maria, Olivia’s servants, and the faithful old retainer, Feste—a well-educated clown. Olivia attempts to live a...
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Twelfth Night is a holiday that occurs on January 6, which is the festival of Epiphany and the last day of the twelve days of Christmas. During Shakespeare's time, Twelfth Night marked the end of a period of seasonal festivities when dances, parties, and banquets were held and plays were performed, and the traditional social order was temporarily overturned— ideally to allow any tensions that had built up over the year to be safely released. A king or lord of misrule was crowned, and traditional social roles (master/servant, bishop/choirboy, king/fool) were reversed. Today, Halloween, New Year's Eve, and Mardi Gras perform a similar function: on these holidays, many people eat and drink whatever they want, go to parties until early in the morning, and temporarily lose their cares and sometimes their inhibitions by wearing costumes or masks, pretending for a short time to be someone else.
Although Shakespeare never makes it clear whether or not the play's action occurs during the Christmas season, Twelfth Night has been described as carnivalesque in plot and tone, and indeed, Sir Toby Belch, for example, seems to be perpetually drinking and partying until late at night with his friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek. There are also plenty of role reversals in the play, including a fool speaking words of wisdom (Feste), a humorless steward made to look like a fool (Malvolio), and a woman (Viola) pretending to be a man.
Women were not employed in acting troupes during Shakespeare's time, so female roles—such as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet or Ophelia in Hamlet— had to be performed by boys whose voices had not yet deepened. This fact added an extra bit of humor to the action in Twelfth Night: Renaissance audiences knew that the part of Viola was played by a boy, and would find it amusing when Viola disguised herself as Cesario, thereby in reality becoming a boy playing a woman playing a young man.
Today, the part of Viola is customarily performed by a woman, which allows modern audiences to focus more on her heart-to-heart discussions with Duke Orsino regarding the differences between the sexes—an issue that continues to interest us today. In II.iv.29-41, for example, Orsino supports his remark that women should marry men who are older than themselves by arguing that men's "fancies are more giddy and unfirm, / More longing, wavering, sooner lost and worn, / Than...
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Act I, Scene 1 Questions and Answers
1. What is the major theme of the play?
2. With whom is the Duke in love?
3. In what kinds of poetry does the Duke express his love?
4. Is it entirely true that the Duke is “in love with love”?
5. What type of metaphor does the Duke use when he addresses the “spirit of love”?
6. What is the subtitle of the play?
7. Toward what does the title Twelfth Night orient the reader?
8. What recreation does Curio ask the Duke about?
9. What is “Twelfth Night”?
10. What kind of part does love play in the festival atmosphere of the play?
1. Love is the major theme of the play.
2. The Duke is in love with Olivia.
3. The Duke’s poetry contains metaphors, puns, synesthesia, and similes.
4. No, it is not completely true because the Duke is clearly in love with Olivia, a specific person.
5. He uses a metaphor drawn from falconry when he addresses the “spirit of love.”
6. The subtitle of the play is “What You Will.”
7. The title orients the reader toward the playful and festive atmosphere of the action.
8. Curio asks the Duke if he is going hunting.
9. “Twelfth Night” is a holiday and occasion for merriment.
10. Love plays an important part as the characters meet...
(The entire section is 209 words.)
Act I, Scene 2 Questions and Answers
1. Where do we first meet Viola?
2. What happened to Viola’s brother?
3. What kind of nature does Viola have?
4. What does Shakespeare imply about love in his shift of thematic emphasis?
5. What device does Viola use to get into the Duke’s service?
6. Is it clear what Viola wants to achieve in the Duke’s service?
7. How does Shakespeare symbolize Viola’s practical side?
8. Is Twelfth Night the only play that involves a character putting on a disguise?
9. What other significant Shakespearean theme does Viola state?
10. What image that the Duke employs does Viola also use?
1. We first meet Viola on a seacoast.
2. He was separated from Viola when the ship sank.
3. Viola has a practical nature.
4. Shakespeare implies that there’s more to love than mere poetry.
5. Viola uses the disguise device to get into the Duke’s service.
6. No, it is not clear as yet what Viola’s specific goal is.
7. Shakespeare symbolizes Viola’s practical side by having her offer money in payment for favors to her.
8. No, Shakespeare has used disguised characters in other plays.
9. Viola states the theme of “appearances versus reality.”
10. Viola repeats the music image of the first scene.
(The entire section is 199 words.)
Act I, Scene 3 Questions and Answers
1. Do we meet Olivia in this scene?
2. What is Sir Andrew’s relationship to Sir Toby?
3. What did Maria hear about Sir Andrew’s purpose for being in the house?
4. What does the presence of Maria and Sir Toby as characters imply?
5. Who brings in a note of competition to the scene?
6. Does Sir Andrew seem an appropriate suitor for Olivia?
7. What else do Sir Toby and Sir Andrew illustrate in the play?
8. How does Shakespeare reveal Sir Toby’s free spirit?
9. What is “ploce”?
10. What type of imagery does Sir Toby introduce at the end of the scene?
1. No, we do not meet Olivia in this scene.
2. They are friends.
3. Maria heard that Sir Toby brought him to the house to woo Olivia.
4. They imply that love is for all kinds of people, no matter what their status is.
5. Sir Andrew brings in a note of competition.
6. No, the scene leaves us with the impression that Sir Andrew may not be an appropriate suitor for Olivia.
7. Sir Toby and Sir Andrew illustrate the party-and-fun atmosphere, as implied in the title’s holiday.
8. Shakespeare reveals Sir Toby’s free spirit through the language.
9. “Ploce” is the repetition of a word in a different sense.
10. Sir Toby introduces a succession...
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Act I, Scene 4 Questions and Answers
1. What is Viola’s male name?
2. What task does the Duke assign Cesario?
3. For whom does Cesario feel love for?
4. To what genre does the play Twelfth Night belong?
5. What kind of an ending do we expect in comedy?
6. What kind of vision does comedy have, according to Northrop Frye?
7. What is the community of Illyria doing about the Duke’s love?
8. How does the Duke respond to Cesario’s doubts that Olivia is too “abandoned to her sorrow” to listen to his suit?
9. Does the Duke change?
10. What does Orsino display at the end of the scene?
1. Viola’s male name is “Cesario.”
2. The Duke assigns Cesario the task of pursuing Olivia for him.
3. Cesario feels love for the Duke.
4. Twelfth Night belongs to the genre of “comedy.”
5. We expect a happy ending in comedy.
6. Comedy’s vision has a social significance.
7. The community in Illyria is well aware of and talking about the Duke’s love.
8. The Duke tells him to “be clamorous and leap all civil bounds.”
9. The Duke’s impassioned stance toward Olivia changes slightly.
10. Orsino displays common sense at the end of the scene.
(The entire section is 192 words.)
Act I, Scene 5 Questions and Answers
1. What does Maria threaten the Clown with?
2. What kind of attitude does the Clown evidence toward Olivia?
3. What does the Clown try to prove about Olivia?
4. What is the name of Olivia’s steward?
5. What does Olivia put on before speaking with Cesario?
6. Who falls in love with whom in this scene?
7. What do the two love twists we’ve witnessed suggest?
8. Which character serves to emphasize the subjective nature of “love” ?
9. In what manner are the Clown’s insults couched?
10. That type of metaphor does Cesario use to lend emphasis to the great love the Duke holds for Olivia?
1. Maria threatens the Clown with punishment for his absence.
2. The Clown evidences an offhand attitude toward Olivia.
3. The Clown tries to prove that Olivia is a fool.
4. Malvolio is Olivia’s steward.
5. Olivia puts on a veil before speaking with Cesario.
6. Olivia falls in love with Cesario.
7. The love twists suggest just how subjective is the experience of love.
8. The Clown’s speech emphasizes the subjective nature of “love.”
9. The Clown’s insults are couched in a jarringly logical manner.
10. Cesario uses an extended theological metaphor to reflect the Duke’s great love.
(The entire section is 196 words.)
Act II, Scene 1 Questions and Answers
1. What is Antonio’s occupation?
2. What relation does Sebastian hold to Viola?
3. What does Sebastian think has happened to Viola?
4. Where do Antonio and Sebastian find themselves in this scene?
5. What purpose does this scene serve?
6. How would you characterize the style of the dialogue?
7. Where does Sebastian say he is headed?
8. What does Antonio want to do for Sebastian?
9. Name one source for Twelfth Night.
10. Essentially, what do the sources and the play Twelfth Night have in common?
1. Antonio is a sea captain.
2. Sebastian is Viola’s brother.
3. Sebastian thinks that Viola has drowned.
4. They find themselves on Illyria’s shore.
5. The purpose of this scene is to inform us about Viola’s twin brother.
6. The style is one of formal, straightforward prose.
7. Sebastian says he is headed for Orsino’s court.
8. Antonio wishes to serve Sebastian.
9. The sources for Twelfth Night are Gl’Ingannati, Bandello, and Riche.
10. The sources have the four essential characters and the plot in common with Shakespeare.
(The entire section is 166 words.)
Act II, Scene 2 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Malvolio seek Cesario?
2. Whose ring is it?
3. What kind of speech is it that Cesario utters?
4. What does Malvolio emphasize to Cesario?
5. Where does Malvolio put the ring?
6. What does Cesario feel about the ring?
7. Who has fallen in love with Cesario?
8. What does Cesario wonder in the latter part of the soliloquy?
9. What motif does Cesario repeat in his soliloquy?
10. What is the critics’ attitude toward Malvolio?
1. Malvolio seeks Cesario to give him a ring.
2. It is a ring from Olivia.
3. Cesario utters a soliloquy.
4. Malvolio emphasizes that Olivia wants Orsino to stop his wooing.
5. Malvolio places the ring on the ground.
6. Cesario feels confused about the ring.
7. Olivia has fallen in love with Cesario.
8. Cesario wonders how the mistaken love will be resolved.
9. Cesario repeats the motif of “appearances versus reality.”
10. Critics have argued over how to interpret Malvolio.
(The entire section is 146 words.)
Act II, Scene 3 Questions and Answers
1. What does going to bed after midnight mean for Sir Toby?
2. What does Sir Andrew call Feste the Clown?
3. What ability of the Clown does Sir Andrew compliment?
4. What do Sir Toby and Andrew offer to Feste for his singing?
5. What two types of songs does the Clown suggest?
6. What does the Clown’s song define?
7. In keeping with the holiday tradition, what title can we apply to Sir Toby?
8. What plot is hatched in this scene?
9. What is Maria’s motive for the scheme?
10. What does Maria plan to drop in Malvolio’s way?
1. For Sir Toby, going to bed after midnight means going to bed early.
2. Sir Andrew calls Feste “the fool.”
3. Sir Andrew compliments the Clown’s singing voice.
4. They offer him money.
5. The Clown suggests either a love song or a song with a moral.
6. The Clown’s song defines “love.”
7. Sir Toby can take on the title of the “lord of misrule.”
8. The comic plot is hatched in this scene.
9. Maria’s motive for the scheme is revenge.
10. Maria plans to drop letters in Malvolio’s way.
(The entire section is 185 words.)
Act II, Scene 4 Questions and Answers
1. What is the first item the Duke requests?
2. Who is not immediately available to sing the song?
3. What kind of a lover does Orsino classify himself as?
4. What does the Duke surmise about Cesario?
5. According to the Duke, does the age of the man in a relationship matter?
6. What does the Clown’s song focus on?
7. Who does the Clown insult?
8. Where does Cesario go once again?
9. What warning does Cesario give to Orsino about Olivia?
10. In what does the lover of the Clown’s song wish to be laid?
1. The Duke requests some music.
2. The Clown is not immediately available to sing the song.
3. Orsino classifies himself as a “true lover.”
4. The Duke surmises that Cesario has been in love.
5. Yes, the age of the male partner does matter.
6. The Clown’s song focuses on the Duke’s frustration with and subsequent failure to obtain Olivia.
7. The Clown insults the Duke.
8. Cesario goes to woo for the Duke.
9. Cesario warns the Duke that Olivia is not open to romance with him.
10. The lover is ready to be buried in a coffin.
(The entire section is 185 words.)
Act II, Scene 5 Questions and Answers
1. Who is Fabian?
2. What is his motive for tricking Malvolio?
3. Who has worked out the scheme?
4. Where will the spectators of the device hide?
5. What does Malvolio fancy himself?
6. What kind of intention do Sir Toby and Andrew evidence by their remarks?
7. In whose handwriting supposedly is the letter that Malvolio finds?
8. What four letters in the letter lead Malvolio to believe it is addressed to him?
9. What is the source of imagery used by Sir Toby, Andrew, Maria, and Fabian to characterize Malvolio’s situation?
10. From whom is Malvolio alienated?
1. Fabian is another of Olivia’s servants.
2. Fabian apparently has a bone to pick with Malvolio.
3. Maria has worked out the scheme.
4. The spectators will hide in a box tree.
5. Malvolio fancies himself a suitor to Olivia.
6. Sir Toby and Andrew evidence a sadistic intention.
7. The letter is supposedly in Olivia’s handwriting.
8. “M,O,A,I” lead Malvolio to believe it is addressed to him.
9. They use animal imagery to enlighten us about Malvolio’s situation.
10. Malvolio is alienated from the rest of the household.
(The entire section is 180 words.)
Act III, Scene 1 Questions and Answers
1. What instrument is the Clown holding?
2. Where does the Clown say he lives by?
3. Why is the Clown upset with words?
4. Rather than Lady Olivia’s fool, what does Feste claim to be?
5. What does Cesario praise while waiting for Olivia?
6. Who declares love in this scene?
7. What is Olivia’s response to Cesario’s wooing for the Duke?
8. Between what two characters does Shakespeare establish a kinship?
9. What happens when wise men act foolishly?
10. According to Herschel Baker, what do the characters lack?
1. The Clown is holding a tabor.
2. The Clown says he lives by a church.
3. The Clown is upset with words because they are rascals whose bonds disgraced them.
4. Feste claims to be Olivia’s “corrupter of words.”
5. Cesario praises the Clown’s skill as a fool.
6. Olivia declares her love for Cesario in this scene.
7. Olivia rejects the Duke.
8. Shakespeare establishes a kinship between Cesario and the Clown.
9. They betray their common sense.
10. The characters lack self-knowledge.
(The entire section is 164 words.)
Act III, Scene 2 Questions and Answers
1. What is Sir Andrew getting ready to do?
2. On whom does Andrew see Olivia bestow her affection?
3. What is Fabian’s explanation for that favoritism?
4. What element does Fabian think will stir Olivia’s passion?
5. What idea does Sir Toby come up with to help Sir Andrew?
6. What task does Sir Toby assign Sir Andrew?
7. What does Sir Toby not plan to do, though?
8. In what manner does Sir Toby hail Maria?
9. How does Maria describe Malvolio’s absorption in the letter?
10. What role does Sir Toby continue to play well?
1. Sir Andrew is getting ready to leave.
2. Andrew sees Olivia bestow her affection on Cesario.
3. Fabian asserts that she is doing that to exasperate Andrew and to rouse him to some action.
4. Fabian thinks that valor will stir Olivia to passion.
5. Sir Toby comes up with the idea of a fight.
6. Sir Toby assigns a letter to Sir Andrew to be delivered to Cesario.
7. Sir Toby does not plan to deliver the letter.
8. Sir Toby hails Maria in an affectionate manner.
9. Maria describes Malvolio’s absorption in the letter as hilarious.
10. Sir Toby continues to play the role of “lord of misrule” well.
(The entire section is 197 words.)
Act III, Scene 3 Questions and Answers
1. What does Sebastian say he will not do to Antonio?
2. Where do they meet?
3. What encouraged Antonio to keep up with Sebastian?
4. How does Antonio describe the area they’re in?
5. What does Sebastian desire to do in Illyria?
6. Why does Antonio have to decline Sebastian’s offer to see the town?
7. What does Sebastian reckon Antonio has done?
8. What does Antonio say he is guilty of?
9. Who is the missing link in the love strands?
10. With what character does Sebastian have a similar thematic function?
1. Sebastian says he will not chide him.
2. They meet in a street.
3. Antonio’s love and concern for Sebastian encouraged him to keep up.
4. Antonio describes the area as “rough and unhospitable.”
5. Sebastian desires to go sightseeing.
6. Antonio has to decline Sebastian’s offer to accompany him because he is a wanted man.
7. Sebastian reckons Antonio has murdered.
8. Antonio says he is guilty of piracy.
9. Antonio is the missing link in the love strands.
10. Sebastian and Viola have similar thematic functions.
(The entire section is 170 words.)
Act III, Scene 4 Questions and Answers
1. How is Olivia feeling at the opening of the scene?
2. What does Olivia commend about Malvolio?
3. What influence sways Malvolio’s mind as he speaks with Olivia?
4. In what words does Malvolio try to dismiss Sir Toby when he enters?
5. What does Sir Toby indicate his attitude toward Malvolio will be when the trick is done?
6. What does Sir Andrew return with?
7. How receptive is Cesario to Olivia’s love?
8. With what news does Sir Toby alarm Cesario?
9. What does the knowledge of Sebastian’s existence make of this scene?
10. How can we characterize Malvolio’s dialogue with Olivia?
1. Olivia is out of sorts.
2. Olivia commends Malvolio’s nature.
3. The commands of the letter sway Malvolio’s mind as he speaks with Olivia.
4. Malvolio tries to dismiss Sir Toby with “Go off; I discard you.”
5. Sir Toby indicates that he will show mercy on Malvolio when the trick is done.
6. Sir Andrew returns with the letter he wrote.
7. Cesario is not receptive to Olivia’s love.
8. Sir Toby alarms Cesario with the report that Sir Andrew is preparing to attack him.
9. Knowledge of Sebastian’s existence makes this a climactic scene.
10. We can characterize Malvolio’s dialogue with Olivia as...
(The entire section is 206 words.)
Act IV, Scene 1 Questions and Answers
1. How does Sebastian react to Feste?
2. What does Sebastian tell the Clown to vent elsewhere?
3. Who tells the other to abandon his pretense?
4. Who fights in this scene?
5. When the Clown sees the fray, what does he do?
6. Who breaks up the fight?
7. How does Olivia characterize Sir Toby’s behavior?
8. To whom does Olivia issue an invitation?
9. How does Sebastian respond to Olivia’s invitation?
10. What does Maurice Charney say about Feste’s mind?
1. Sebastian dismisses the Clown.
2. Sebastian tells the Clown to vent his folly elsewhere.
3. Feste tells Sebastian to abandon his pretense, “ungird thy strangeness.”
4. Sebastian, Sir Andrew, and Sir Toby fight in this scene.
5. The Clown goes off to inform Olivia.
6. Olivia breaks up the fight.
7. Olivia calls Sir Toby a “rudesby” and “ungracious wretch.”
8. Olivia issues an invitation to Sebastian.
9. Sebastian is surprised at Olivia’s invitation.
10. Maurice Charney says that Feste has an “agile mind at wordplay.”
(The entire section is 156 words.)
Act IV, Scene 2 Questions and Answers
1. What two articles does Maria give the Clown?
2. Whom does she want Feste to play?
3. What label does Sir Topas greet Malvolio with?
4. What kind of room is Malvolio in?
5. What are the two sources of light in that room?
6. How does Malvolio perceive himself?
7. What items does Malvolio request from Sir Topas?
8. What kind of test does Malvolio ask for?
9. Why does Sir Toby feel compelled to put a stop to the trick?
10. What image in the scene suggests the cruelty of Maria and Sir Toby?
1. Maria gives the Clown a gown and a beard.
2. Maria wants Feste to play Sir Topas.
3. Sir Topas greets Malvolio as “Malvolio the lunatic.”
4. Malvolio is in a very dark room.
5. The two sources of light in the room are bay windows and clerestories.
6. Malvolio perceives himself as a wronged man.
7. Malvolio requests a candle, pen, ink, and paper from Sir Topas.
8. Malvolio asks for a test of his sanity.
9. Sir Toby feels compelled to put a stop to the trick because Olivia disapproves of his nonsense.
10. The darkness image suggests the cruelty of Maria and Sir Toby.
(The entire section is 188 words.)
Act IV, Scene 3 Questions and Answers
1. Why is the garden an appropriate setting for this scene?
2. What does Sebastian try to come to terms with?
3. What does the rapidity of the love match prevent us from obtaining?
4. What gift has Olivia given Sebastian?
5. Whom does Sebastian wish to speak with?
6. Does he accept or reject Olivia’s love?
7. What skill of Olivia’s does Sebastian praise?
8. What plans has Olivia made?
9. Who has she brought to carry out those plans?
10. What is the key symbolic element of this scene?
1. It is appropriate because a wedding is about to take place.
2. Sebastian tries to come to terms with his good luck.
3. The rapidity of the love match prevents us from obtaining Sebastian’s feelings about love.
4. Olivia gives Sebastian a pearl.
5. Sebastian wishes to speak with Antonio.
6. He accepts Olivia’s love.
7. Sebastian praises Olivia’s management of affairs in the house.
8. Olivia has planned a wedding ceremony.
9. She has brought a priest to tie the knot.
10. The key symbolic element is the twins.
(The entire section is 170 words.)
Act V, Scene 1 Questions and Answers
1. Whose letter does Feste refuse to show Fabian?
2. With what disparaging term does the Clown refer to himself and Fabian?
3. Whom does Antonio think Cesario is?
4. Why does Olivia call in the priest?
5. What has happened to Sir Andrew?
6. What does Sebastian’s presence signal?
7. Whom does Malvolio cast blame on in his letter?
8. With Olivia and Sebastian being the first couple, who make up the second couple?
9. Who make up the third pairing?
10. What satisfaction does Malvolio want for the trick?
1. Feste refuses to show Malvolio’s letter.
2. The Clown refers to Fabian and himself as Olivia’s “trappings.”
3. Antonio thinks Cesario is Sebastian.
4. Olivia calls in the priest to verify her marriage to Sebastian.
5. Sir Andrew has been injured by Sebastian.
6. Sebastian’s presence signals the resolution of the mistaken identity plot.
7. Malvolio casts blame on Olivia.
8. The second couple consists of the Duke and Viola.
9. Sir Toby and Maria make up the third couple.
10. Malvolio desires revenge on all his malefactors.
(The entire section is 167 words.)
Celebration and Festivity
Twelfth Night's light-hearted gaiety is fitting for a play named for the Epiphany, the last night in the twelve days of Christmas. While the Christian tradition celebrated January 6 as the Feast of the Magi, the celebrations of the Renaissance era were a time for plays, banquets, and disguises, when cultural roles were reversed and normal customs playfully subverted. The historical precedent to this celebration is the Roman Saturnalia, which took place during the winter solstice and included the practices of gift-giving and showing mock hostility to those authority figures normally associated with dampening celebration. While the action of Twelfth Night occurs in the spring, and no mention of Epiphany is made, the joyful spirit of the play reflects the Saturnalian release and carnival pursuits generally associated with the holiday. The youthful lovers engage in courtship rituals, and the one figure who rebukes festivity, Malvolio, is mocked for his commitment to order. The Saturnalian tradition of disguise is also a major theme in Twelfth Night, with Viola donning the uniform of a pageboy, Olivia hiding behind a veil of mourning, Malvolio appearing in cross-gartered yellow stockings, and the wisest of all characters, Feste, in the costume of a clown. However, some critics argue that, as Feste reminds the audience, that nothing is as it seems, underneath the festival atmosphere of Illyria lies a darker side,...
(The entire section is 762 words.)
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Berry, Ralph. Shakespeare’s Comedies: Explorations in Form. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1972. A discussion of Shakespeare’s comedies in which each chapter is devoted to a specific play. In the chapter “The Messages of Twelfth Night,” Barry discusses the deceits and illusions in the play and concludes that it calls the very nature of reality into question.
Levin, Richard A. Love and Society in Shakespearean Comedy. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1985. A critical study of three of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies. Two chapters deal with Twelfth Night: “Household Politics in Illyria” discusses the acceptance of the various characters into society, while “Feste and the Antiromantic Twelfth Night” focuses on the discordant elements of the play.
Lloyd Evans, Gareth. The Upstart Crow: An Introduction to Shakespeare’s Plays. London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1982. Focuses mainly on critical reviews of Shakespeare’s plays, as well as discussing sources and historical context and background.
Muir, Kenneth, ed. Shakespeare—The Comedies: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1965. An anthology of essays that discuss Shakespeare’s comedies from various points of view. Harold Jenkins compares Twelfth...
(The entire section is 243 words.)
Bibliography and Further Reading
*If available, books are linked to Amazon.com
Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981.
Barber, Cesar Lombardi . Shakespeare's Festive Comedy: A Study of Dramatic Form and Its Relation to Social Custom. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972.
Berry, Edward. Shakespeare's Comic Rites. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
Berry, Ralph. Shakespeare’s Comedies. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972.
Brown, John Russell. Discovering Shakespeare: A New Guide to the Plays. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986.
Brown, John. R. Shakespeare and His Comedies. London: Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1957.
Charney, Maurice. All of Shakespeare. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.
Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957.
Gaylin, Willard. Rediscovering Love. New York: Viking Penguin, Inc., 1986.
Granville-Barker, Harley. Prefaces to Shakespeare. Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1963.
Hotson, Leslie. The First Night of Twelfth Night. New York: MacMillan, 1954.
Leech, Clifford. 'Twelfth Night' and Shakespearean Comedy. Toronto: Dalhousie University Press, 1965.
Leggatt, Alexander. Shakespeare’s Comedy of Love. London: Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1974.
Levin, Richard. Love and Society in Shakespearean Comedy. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1985.
Muir, Kenneth. Shakespeare's Comic Sequence. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1979.
Nevo, Ruth. Comic Transformations in Shakespeare. New York: Routledge, Chapman & Hall, 1981.
Palmer, John. Comic Characters of...
(The entire section is 335 words.)