Twelfth Night (or What You Will) - 2011
The play opens with a shipwreck in which the leading character, Viola,
is washed up on the shores of Illyria. During the wreck she loses contact
with her twin brother, Sebastian, whom she believes is dead. Masquerading
as a young page under the name Cesario, she enters the service of Duke
Orsino through the help of the sea captain who rescues her. Orsino has
convinced himself that he is in love with the bereaved Lady Olivia, whose
father and brother have recently died, and who will have nothing to do
with any suitors, the Duke included. Orsino decides to use ‘Cesario’ as
an intermediary to tell Olivia about his love for her. Olivia, believing
Viola to be a man, falls in love with this handsome and eloquent messenger.
Viola, in turn, has fallen in love with the Duke, who also believes Viola
is a man, and who regards her as his confidant.
Much of the play is taken
up with the comic subplot, in which several characters conspire to make
Olivia’s pompous head steward, Malvolio, believe that his lady Olivia wishes
to marry him. It involves Olivia’s uncle, Sir Toby Belch; another would-be
suitor, a hapless squire Sir Andrew Aguecheek; her servants Maria and Fabian;
and the Fool, Feste. Sir Toby and Sir Andrew get drunk and disturb the
peace of their lady’s house by continuously singing songs late into the
night at the top of their voices, prompting Malvolio to chastise them.
This is the basis for Sir Toby’s, Sir Andrew’s, and Maria’s revenge on
The riotous company convince Malvolio that Olivia is
secretly in love with him through a love letter written by Maria in Olivia’s
hand asking Malvolio to wear yellow stockings cross-gartered, to be rude
to the rest of the servants and to smile constantly in the presence of
Olivia. Malvolio finds the letter and reacts in surprised delight. He starts
acting out the contents of the letter to show Olivia his positive response.
Olivia, saddened by Viola’s attitude towards her, asks for her chief steward,
and is shocked by a Malvolio who has seemingly lost his mind. She leaves
him to the contrivances of his tormentors.
Pretending that Malvolio is insane,
they lock him up in a dark cellar with a slit for light. Feste visits him
to mock his ‘insanity’, once disguised as a priest, and again as himself.
At the end of the play Malvolio learns of their conspiracy and storms off
Meanwhile Sebastian, Viola’s brother, believed deceased,
arrives on the scene having been rescued by Antonio, an old enemy of the
Duke Orsino. Mistaking him for Viola, Olivia asks him to marry her, and
they are secretly united. Finally, when the twins appear in the presence
of both Olivia and the Duke, there is more wonder and awe at their similarity,
at which point Viola reveals she is really a female and that Sebastian
is her lost twin brother. The play ends in a declaration of marriage between
the Duke and Viola, and it is learned that Toby has married Maria. An elegiac
song from Feste (“heigh-ho, the wind and the rain”) brings the entertainment
to a close.