One of William Shakespeare’s best known comedies is, Twelfth Night. It is a complicated and sometimes confusing play that starts in the imaginary country of Illyria, where Duke Orsino is bemoaning his love for the Countess Olivia. In an other part of Illyria there is a shipwreck. Viola is rescued by the captain. She fears that her twin brother, Sebastian, has drowned.
Viola decides to work for a rich countess named Olivia, who is still mourning the death of her brother, refuses to hire anyone. Viola then comes up with a plan. She is going to change her identity to a man, and change her name to Cesario. She is to work for Duke Orsino as a page and believes that Countess Olivia will hire her. Meanwhile, in Olivia’s palace we meet Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Ague cheek. Sir Toby Belch is Olivia’s uncle and Sir Andrew is one of Sir Toby’s drinking buddies.
We also meet Maria who is Olivia’s servant. Duke Orsino hires Cesario (Viola) and is very impressed. The Duke who is still madly in love with Countess Oliva, sends Viola to her to tell Olivia of his love for her. Duke Orsino says to Viola, Oh then unfold the passion of my love, Surprise her with discourse of my dear faith.
It shall become thee well to act my woes; She will attend it better in thy youth. Than in a nuncio’s of more grave aspect. (1… 4 i 24-28) Viola goes to Oliva’s court a little begrudgingly for she is falling in love with Duke Orsino. Viola arrives at Countess Oliva’s palace but is prevented from entering by Sir Toby Belch and Oliva’s steward, Malvolio. Aroused by Viola’s stubborn determination, Oliva lets Viola in to hear the Duke’s message.
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Oliva begins to fall in love with Viola, who disguised as Cesario. Oliva sends Viola away and tells her to tell the Duke that she does not love him. She sends Malvolio after Viola, with a ring and an invitation to come back the next day. In another part of Illryia, we learn that Viola’s twin brother has survived the shipwreck and is alive. He is rescued by a sea captain named Antonio. Sebastian fears that Viola is dead.
He thanks Antonio for all of the hospitality he has shown but says he must travel. Antonio asks Sebastian if he can accompany him but Sebastian says, “the malignancy of my fate might perhaps distemper yours.” ( … 1 i 4-5) Antonio decides to go with Sebastian, to Duke Orsino’s court even though Antonio is to be arrested if ever seen around the Duke. Meanwhile, Malvolio catches up to Viola and gives her the ring. At first Viola is puzzled but realizes that Oliva has fallen in love with her. Back at Countess Oliva’s, Sir Toby and Sir Andrew are drunk and making a ruckus.
Feste, who is a jester, joins them and sings a song for them. Maria comes and warns them that Oliva is very displeased with their behaviour but they ignore her advice and they continue to drink and sing. Malvolio comes and gives them their final warning and threatens to report Maria to Oliva for her part in this uproar. Maria comes up with a plan to make Malvolio look like a fool.
She is going to write a love letter and address it from Oliva to Malvolio and make sure that Malvolio finds it. Back at the Duke’s court, “Orsino continues to suffer the torments of unrequited love.” Feste sings a song to the Duke about a rejected lover. The Duke sends Viola to tell Oliva that he loves her. Back at Oliva’s palace Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, Maria and their friend Fabian anxiously hide behind a tree as they wait for Malvolio to find the love letter written by Maria. Malvolio finds the letter and believes that Oliva is in love with him. In the letter it says to smile and wear yellow stockings and cross-garnered if Malvolio loves Oliva too.
The theme of deception runs very strong in Act One. Almost all the characters seem to either be deceiving someone, or being deceived themselves. Orsino is the first deceiver we meet. He is also being deceived, by himself. He is fooling himself by believing that he only has to tell a woman he loves her, and she will fall in love with him. He is in love with the idea of love itself. He is so ...
Viola returns to Oliva’s house to tell again of how much Duke Orsino loves but again Oliva tells her that she will have nothing to do with Duke Orsino and instead loves Viola (Cesario).
Viola tells her that she will never love a woman. Sir Andrew see’s Viola (Cesario) with Oliva and realizes that she favours Viola (Cesario) more than him. His friends Sir Toby and Fabian convince him to challenge Cesario (Viola) to a duel. Sir Andrew decides to duel Cesario (Viola) but first goes to see Malvolio strutting around the house with yellow stockings and with a big smile.
Oliva, thinking Malvolio has gone mad orders him to be locked up. Sebastian and Antonio arrive in the city where Duke Orsino’s court is. Sebastian decides to explore the city but Antonio decides to head straight to the Inn because he doesn’t want to be seen in Illyria. He leaves his money with Sebastian. On his way to the Inn Antonio, comes across Viola and Sir Andrew in a duel. Mistaking Viola for Sebastian he intervenes to prevent Sir Andrew from hurting or killing his friend.
Antonio is seen by Duke Orsino’s officers and is arrested. Still thinking that Viola is Sebastian he asks for his money so he could make bail but Viola has no idea what he is talking about. Antonio is dragged away to the jail. Sir Andrew is still cross with Cesario (Viola).
He sees Sebastian, who he thinks is Viola and hits him. Sebastian draws his sword and strikes him back. Sir Toby tries to help his friend out but Sebastian hits him too. Oliva appears and puts a stop to all of the fighting.
Oliva mistakes Sebastian for Viola and invites Sebastian back to her house. Back at her house Oliva asks Sebastian to marry her and Sebastian accepts. Meanwhile, Sir Toby is still playing a practical joke on Malvolio. But he realizes that the joke has gone to far and allows Malvolio a to send a letter of explanation to Oliva.
Oliva reads the letter and orders that Malvolio be released from jail at once. Duke Orsino finds out that Cesario is really Viola and they fall in love and get married. Maria and Sir Toby also get married and Antonio is released from jail and becomes friends with Duke Orsino. Everyone is happy is happy except Malvolio who says he will get his revenge.
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The play concludes with Feste singing a farewell song. When that I was a little tiny boy, With hey, ho, the wind and and the rain, A foolish thing was but a toy. For the rain it raineth everyday. But when I come to man’s estate, With hey, ho, the wind and the rain, ‘Gains knaves and thieves men shut their gate, For the it raineth everyday, But when I came alas! To wive, With hey, ho, the wind and the rain, By swaggering could I never thrive, For the rain it raineth every day. But when I came unto my beds, With hey, ho, the wind and the rain, With tosspot’s still had drunken heads, For the rain it raineth everyday. A great while ago the world begun, With hey, ho, the wind and the rain, But that’s all one, our play is done, And we ” ll strive to please you everyday.
(V… i… 381-400).