2015-2016 Season,  Twelfth Night

What in the blazin’ is a Twelfth Night?

by Christian Riboldi, dramaturg

Welcome back to the 4th Wall. Today we’re going to cover the basic overview of the plot for Twelfth Night. Unlike Romeo and Juliet, the plot for Twelfth Night might not be as widely known to most of you. I know I had to brush up my Shakespeare in order to remember.

First let’s cover our basic characters.

Orsino: He’s a…you guessed it, duke, who is in love with Olivia.
Olivia: A wealthy maid who is the fairest of them all.
Viola: Twin to Sebastian and main heroine of the story. When dressed as a boy she goes by the name Cesario.
Sebastian: Twin to Viola. Get’s lost at he very beginning of the story.
Malvolio: Servant to Viola and in charge of the other servants. A little on the snooty side.
Sir Toby: Olivia’s Uncle. He’s a little loud and good friends with Feste and Maria.
Feste: The town fool. In this town he is a man of many talents.
Maria: Olivia’s hand maiden, though she quite spunky.

Joseph Timms as Sebastian (left) and Samuel Barnett as Viola (right) in the Globe Theater.

There you have it. In this cutting of our show those are all of the characters.

The show starts out with Sebastian and Viola getting separated by a storm. The now desperate Viola decides that to make it on her own she will need to find work, which she can’t to as a woman, so she dresses as a man and calls herself Cesario.

Cesario get’s hired by Orsino and is told to run an errand to tell the fair Olivia that Orsino is still in love with her. Viola does this but begins to realize that she likes Orsino, and wishes that he liked her back. While at Olivia’s, Viola/Cesario is so good at wooing that Olivia begins to fall for Cesario.

Meanwhile Malvolio is telling off all of the servants and Sir Toby for being rowdy, so Sir Toby, Feste, and Maria decide to play a trick on Malvolio. Maria writes a letter pretending she is Olivia declaring her love for Malvolio. The letter convinces Malvolio that Olivia is really in love with him.

Sebastian has now finally found his way back after the storm. When he enters the town Olivia throws herself at him, thinking that he is Cesario and tells him that they need to get married right now. Sebastian is surprised but goes along with it because it’s not everyday that he has women begging to marry him.

In the end Malvolio makes a fool of himself, Sebastian and Viola reunite, and Viola and Orsino get married.

Finally after all of this you may be wondering to yourself, what in the world does this have to do with a Twelfth Night? A lot of people wonder the same thing. I think it would be best to let one of our character explain what it seems to be referring to.

This is a snippet from an explanation Malvolio offers at the beginning or our version of the show.

“Actually it’s called twelfth night as a reference to the twelfth night after Christmas day, called the Eve of the Feast of Epiphany, which is a carnvialesque celebration where roles were reversed, based on the ancient Roman festival of Staurnalia. Scholars argue about whether or not Shakespeare wrote it to celebrate the actual holiday, or if the title just refers to the topsy-turvy world suggested by this beloved festival – an interpretation that is supported by the subtitle, “What Your Will.”

There you have it folks. Now that you know what Twelfth Night is about you can recognize the story when you see it. Next time we’re going to be talking about some different adaptations of that this play has gone through. Until next time.

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