Twelfth Night Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Twelfth Night book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What is the major theme of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night?

Expert Answers info

Tamara K. H. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write3,619 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

The one dominant theme underlying both the plot and subplot of Twelfth Night can be gleaned from the title of the play and more importantly the subtitle, Twelfth Night; or, What You Will. To understand the meaning of the title and how it connects to the dominant theme, one must first understand the traditions surrounding the Twelfth Night holiday, other wise called The Feast of Epiphany. Epiphany fell on the twelfth night after Christmas day, which marked the day that the Magi, or three Wise Men brought their gifts to baby Jesus. While one might expect an Epiphany celebration to reflect on Christmas traditions, in Elizabethan England, it was actually apparently a "time when excess and license were expected to run rampant" (eNotes, "Twelfth Night: Themes "). Shakespeare even wrote the play for an Epiphany party being held at one of the Inns of Court in...

(The entire section contains 427 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial