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Twelfth Night

by William Shakespeare

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8,91796647 (3.98)1 / 317
"Twelfth night is a riotous comedy of hopelessly unrequited passions and mistaken identity. Duke Orsino is in love with the noblewoman Olivia. She, however, has fallen for his servant Cesario, who is actually Viola, a woman disguised as a man, who loves Orsino: confusion is rife. Meanwhile, Olivia's arrogant steward Malvolio is cruelly tricked by her uncle Sir Toby Belch, his friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek and the maidservant Maria into believing his mistress loves him"--Container.… (more)
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English (91)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  French (1)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (96)
Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)
Twelfth Night ranks up with A Midsummer Night’s Dream when you are looking at Shakespeare’s comedies that have been produced and adapted to death. While this play about disguising your gender and falling in love and mistaken twins play have played better in he 1600s, these days there’s a lot to say about the underlying sense of homophobia, bullying, and implied transphobia of having a character dress in drag for the audience’s entertainment. Fortunately because it’s a play, there are ways of interpreting this for the stage that can alleviate some of the problematic elements.

While Twelfth Night isn’t my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays, it is a familiar one. Viola and Sebastien are shipwrecked separately in a strange land. Each assumes the other is dead. Viola seeks employment with Count Orsino as a boy after being denied as a lady in waiting for Olivia, and Sebastien takes his sweet time coming to town with the wanted man Antonio. The last two acts of the play are all about confusion of identity and proclamations of love. It’s a bit unbalanced, leaning heavily into Viola’s charade for much of the early par of the book.. What’s more, I was a little bit surprised to find that Sir Toby Belch et al made up quick a lot of the scenes. Shakespeare’s comedic trios more often support the lovers than upstage them (in my interpretations).

As when any play, I found myself assessing the characters and asking myself who I’d want to play. For me, I still fall into the comedy instead of the leads – Viola is very flat and Olivia too changeable for my tastes. This comedic trio was certainly not my favorite, and even though I pinpoint Maria as the mastermind… they’re all bullies. Each of these characters spend a lot of time complaining about Olivia’s court, and go to great pains to make a fool of Malvolio… to the point where’s essentially locked up. It’s in poor tastes, especially from a mental health perspective.

All this said, I am impressed by the care taken in the language. Twelfth Night is certainly witty, for all its flaws. Sometimes, I would find a single line would make me chuckle. Even though the plot is quite predicable (all these comedies follow the same line of new people arrive + avoidable confusion and trickery = marriages galore), the language is impressive even this many years later. Because I’ve read quite a lot of Shakespeare, I don’t have much trouble with the language and some of the antiquated terms, but the Folger’s editions have wonder accompanying explanations for anyone less comfortable with the work.

As a raw piece of material, Twelfth Night is lacking sheerly due to its reliance on problematic material to produce the comedic elements. However, there are some things to be appreciated in the language of the play. It also must be noted that this play is approximately 400 years old, and as such even the problematic elements are ripe for discussion and analysis. If you haven’t experienced Twelfth Night, I would still recommend it as long as you are going in with the knowledge of how outdated the material is, just to experience Shakespeare’s witticism. It’s a short book because it’s a play, so all dialogue. I tend go into most plays with a director’s mindset, imaging the possibilities of how it could unfurl on stage. Twelfth Night is ripe with possibilities. ( )
  Morteana | Mar 8, 2021 |
"This fellow is wise enough to play the fool… This is a practice As full of labour as a wise man's art…" (pg. 64)

Shakespeare's comedies always seem to enjoy a more ambiguous reputation than his tragedies. Whereas, once the peculiarities of language are overcome, dramatic schemes and actions like those in Macbeth, Hamlet and King Lear can be readily identified and appreciated by modern audiences, it is often much harder to parse the worth of one of the Bard's comedies. That they do have worth – The Merchant of Venice and The Taming of the Shrew are ingenious satires, and A Midsummer Night's Dream is metaphysical drunkenness – is why so many readers and lovers of the theatre make the effort to meet them halfway, or sometimes more than halfway.

This is why I happily dismissed my doubts about Twelfth Night and why, even though this play doesn't have the deeper worth of those other Shakespeare comedies I mentioned above, I cannot fault it. The clue to Twelfth Night's essence is in its title, which has no bearing on the content of the play: 'Twelfth Night' is a day of festivities, a date in early January to mark the end of the Christmas period. To this end, Shakespeare's light romp of mistaken identities, bawdy language and plenty of sing-song, was meant as just a piece of fluff for Queen Elizabeth's court. The equivalent of one of our Boxing Day TV repeats as we pig out on Quality Street.

Despite this light remit, Shakespeare can't help but be erudite, dexterous and interesting. For all its mistaken identities and merry pranking, it is one of the easiest Shakespearean comedies to follow. It's tidy and it's never dull and it's one of Shakespeare's more quotable plays. Its success in doing all this well means this piece of fluff has survived, through the skill of its author, for much longer than would otherwise be expected. After all, while some, like Hamlet and Macbeth, are born great, and others like The Merchant of Venice and King Lear achieve greatness, some, by virtue of sharing such company, have greatness thrust upon them. Twelfth Night is one of the latter. ( )
1 vote MikeFutcher | Jan 15, 2021 |
A case of mistaken identity is always a good time. I'm embarking on the Shakespeare 2020 challenge, and starting off with a comedy is always a great idea, in my book.

This year, I'll be looking for spaces to integrate queer, womanist identities, and the characters of Antonio, Malvolio, Clown, and Maria provide plenty of fodder for consideration.

Questions I have: is Maria a villain or an opportunistic agent? And is this bad?
Is Malvolio a bad guy or misunderstood?
Are the Duke (and possibly Viola) queer? ( )
  DrFuriosa | Dec 4, 2020 |
The Plain Text Shakespeare small pocket sized edition.
  David-Block | Nov 16, 2020 |
I'm rarely let down by an Arden edition, but this one is almost the exception. No, that's being too cruel, but...

As always, the quality of the text, the depth of the notes, the discussion of editorial issues, and the bibliography are immaculate. You couldn't ask for a greater scholarly resource and overall "cheat sheet" to one of the Bard's works. At the same time, the introduction is a rare letdown for this series. Overall, the Ardens inhabit an awkward gray area between scholarly pursuits - reading in to every line, letter, and semi-colon - and general accessibility. Inevitably when examining a work at this level of detail, academia will rear its ugly head. At the same time, the Arden editors have wisely made each introduction an overall analysis, leaving the more scholarly notes for the bibliography. After all, this kind of opaque discussion is more the purview of scholarly articles and papers rather than published editions of the play. The massive bibliographies are vital, and they lead those of us with scholarly minds down that path. Unfortunately, this work is dry and hermeneutic from page one. (This might seem like a silly complaint, but when these introductions clock in at 150 dense pages, it's important they work well.)

So, I can't complain about the high standard of the text, but unfortunately I'll be seeking out alternative "Twelfth Night" editions for an overview. ( )
  therebelprince | Nov 15, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)
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Shakespeare, Williamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Andrews, John F.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Auld, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baker, Herschel ClayEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baldini, Gabrielesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Crewe, Jonathan V.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Eccles, MarkEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Fitzpatrick, Lucy M.Notessecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Flint, KateEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frykman, ErikIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Gay, PennyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Hall, PeterIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harbage, AlfredEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Kéry GyörgyAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Klose, DietrichEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
First words
If music be the food of love, play on,

Give me excess of it; that, surfeiting,

The appetite may sicken, and so die.
Feste the Clown: Come away, come away, death,
And in sad cypress let me be laid;
Fly away, fl y away, breath;
I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
My shroud of white, stuck all with yew,
O, prepare it!
My part of death, no one so true
Did share it.
Quotations
If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.

That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour!
what says Quinapalus?
“Better a witty fool, than a foolish wit.”
If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.
Be not afraid of greatness: some men are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This work is for the complete Twelfth Night only. Do not combine this work with abridgements, adaptations or "simplifications" (such as "Shakespeare Made Easy"), Cliffs Notes or similar study guides, or anything else that does not contain the full text. Do not include any video recordings. Additionally, do not combine this with other plays.
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Wikipedia in English (6)

"Twelfth night is a riotous comedy of hopelessly unrequited passions and mistaken identity. Duke Orsino is in love with the noblewoman Olivia. She, however, has fallen for his servant Cesario, who is actually Viola, a woman disguised as a man, who loves Orsino: confusion is rife. Meanwhile, Olivia's arrogant steward Malvolio is cruelly tricked by her uncle Sir Toby Belch, his friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek and the maidservant Maria into believing his mistress loves him"--Container.

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Book description
Viola is shipwrecked and dons male clothing to get a job. Cesario (Viola) is sent by Duke Orsino to woo for him the Lady Olivia; Olivia, however, is more interested, and falls in love with Cesario (Viola). (Subplot: Olivia's uncle Toby Belch and cohorts scheme to trick Malvolio into thinking that Olivia favors him.) Meanwhile, Viola's twin brother, thought to be lost at sea, emerges and is swept into marriage with Olivia — and the masquerade is over, to most people's advantage.
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140714898, 0141014709

Yale University Press

An edition of this book was published by Yale University Press.

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2 editions of this book were published by Recorded Books.

Editions: 1456100033, 1449889646

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