Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night is the Shakespearean comedy, extremely successful even during Shakespeare’s lifetime. The first account of this play’s performance is from a diary entry written in 1602 referring to the play and its plot. In spite of the play’s success, it was rarely performed during the 17th century. In the early 19th century, there was a successful performance of the play with songs and funny scenes. The play was performed for the first time in New York in 1804. Then the play was staged in a Victorian style towards the 20th century.

Plot Overview

In Illyria kingdom, one character named Orsino, listens to music and dreams of Lady Olivia, his love. He will not marry her because she mourns for her brother’s death. Meanwhile, there is a storm which caused some shipwreck. A beautiful woman whose name is Viola is found on the shore of the Illyrian kingdom. A friendly captain is telling Viola about Orsino’s passion for Lady Olivia and she wishes to find work in Lady Olivia’s home. As Lady Olivia will not hire strangers, she makes the appearance of a man and is given something to work by the Duke Orsino. Viola, now Cesario, becomes Orsino’s favorite, making him his trusted page. As for Viola, she falls for Orsino and when Cesario is sent with love messages for Lady Olivia, she falls in love with Cesario who was believed to be a young man. There is now a love triangle: Viola falls for Orsino, Orsino is in love with Lady Olivia who loves the young Cesario, and this way all of them are unhappy. There is a moment when Cesario accompanied by Orsino go to Lady Olivia’s home where Lady Olivia takes Cesario for her husband, as she was married to Sebastian, Viola’s (Cesario) brother. Then Sebastian appears on scene and everything is revealed. Brother and sister are finally reunited. Orsino knows now that he is in love with Viola and he is asking her to become his wife. Everything is fully revealed and they are celebrating the happy event.


A major theme is love as a cause of suffering. The play ‘Twelfth Night’ will always be considered a romantic comedy having love as the play’s main focus. The play offers a happy ending; however, the author offers a different image of love as love can cause sometimes pain and not joy. Many characters are suffering from being in love. Love appears exclusionary: there are people who achieve happiness whereas others will not.

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