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Twelfth Night.

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Twelfth Night .... is about all kinds of Main and sub plots ---... and sadness, laughter and cruelty. It has essentially two plots: a main plot, typical of a romantic comedy in the Renaissance; and a subplot, which is essentially comic. The main plot -- the story of Orsino and Viola and Olivia and Sebastian -- features lost siblings united and lovers joined in marriage; it throws in some mistaken identities and women disguised as boys, which were also typical of a romantic play during this time (Shakespeare used the motif several times in other plays). It has a happy ending, with all four lovers marrying their own true love (and a person of the correct sex), and all of them poised to live happily ever after. The play is set on Twelfth Night, a holiday which derives from the medieval practice of celebrating Christmas for the entire period between Christmas Eve and Epiphany, January 6. Everything was deliberately turned upside down; activities that were generally regarded as bad taste were encouraged during that short period. In this spirit, Shakespeare introduces a jester, Feste, who is often called "the Fool." Feste is not foolish at all, but around him revolves some of the most significant issues of this extremely complex play. Feste is the character who sets the stage for the Twelfth Night festivities. Olivia is supposed to be in mourning for her dead brother during this period, as Malvolio pointedly reminds her; but nobody can really be in mourning during Twelfth Night. ...read more.


Ultimately this leads to his marriage to Olivia, who has fallen in love with Cesario (not realising 'he' is Viola) while Cesario has been taking messages of love from the Duke to Olivia. Fortunately, the Duke has also fallen in love with Cesario, (he is, of course, relieved to discover that Cesario is really a girl - Viola), so all's well in the end for this group of characters Shakespeare creates works of art in which you may find things out for yourself. Orsino plays the role of a 'romantic lover'; Olivia that of a mourning lady', withdrawn from the challenges offered by love. Both of them are rather self-centred and egotistical. They require an agent - Viola - to open them up to the potential of real love. But what does Viola understand love to be herself? She submits to it, but she has great difficulty in controlling it or foreseeing its outcome. There are other forms of love, less successful - perhaps all forms of self-love: Malvolio (self-infatuated); Sir Toby, addicted to his habits and the hospitality of others, and like his friend Sir Andrew, interested in a profitable match rather than love itself. Viola is the hero of the story. After all, she is really tested by the events in which she is caught up and I feel she's more resourceful that Olivia. Olivia is more in love with herself than with anyone else. She accuses Malvolio of being 'sick of self-love' but I think she suffers from the same complaint. ...read more.


Yet she soon establishes herself and gathers information. She makes her plans and rapidly recovers from her mourning and grief over her brother in what we might describe as a business-like, "masculine" fashion. Sebastian, on the other hand, displays much of the feminine in his first appearance: he weeps ("She is drowned already, sir, with salt water, though I seem to drown her remembrance again with more." (II.i.26-8)) Sebastian describes himself as "near the manners of my mother" (II.i.36), and spends much of the scene affected by his sister's fate. Yet he proves a competent fighter -- "the very devil incardinate" (V.i.174) -- often even quarrelsome, as when he threatens Feste ("If you tarry longer, I shall give worse payment." (IV.i.18-9)) and lashes out at Andrew's incompetent attack. Viola and Sebastian need to imitate each other and their roles match this mingling of genders. The two go together, "an apple cleft in two" (V.i.215), shipwrecked together Olivia begins more subtly, with the ring she sends via Malvolio. Shakespeare's Olivia, is capable of managing her own affairs, though eventually she is overcome by the power of love. Twelfth Night is a play of reversals and wish fulfillment. In the main plot, sister is mistaken for brother, and brother for sister. Viola tells Olivia `That you do think you are not what you are' -- and admits the same holds true of herself. And with that aid, Twelfth Night can more fully realize Feste's parting claim, "And we'll strive to please you every day." (V.i.397) ...read more.

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