William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, the famous gender-bending comedy, tells the story of Viola, a young woman who loses her brother at sea.
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Twelfth Night or What You Will

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Twelfth Night

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Twelfth Night Play

Twelfth Night begins with Orsino, The Duke of Illyria revealing his love for Countess Olivia. Olivia is annoyed her rowdy cousin Sir Toby has encouraged Sir Andrew Aguecheek to court her. Sir Andrew is rich but not very smart. Sir Toby has tricked Sir Andrew into pursuing Olivia so he can continue benefiting from Sir Andrew's wealth. Realising Olivia does not like him, Sir Andrew prepares to leave but Sir Toby convinces him to stay another month... Viola is introduced as a survivor of a shipwreck which separated her from her twin brother... Viola disguises herself as a man called Cesario to serve Orsino, quickly becoming entrusted by Orsino to convey his love for Olivia. Cesario, in love for Orsino herself, dutifully represents him. Cesario meets Olivia. Olivia explains she does not love Orsino. Olivia would however like to see Cesario again. Smitten with Cesario, Olivia sends her steward Malvolio after him to give back a ring Cesario left behind...

Sebastian, Viola's twin, has survived the shipwreck. He believes Viola is dead. Antonio, who saved Sebastian's life, travels with him to Orsino's court even though he has many enemies there. Malvolio returns Cesario's ring to him. Cesario is confused; "he" left behind no such ring. Cesario now realises the ring is a ploy by Olivia to seduce him. Cesario tells Orsino that Olivia does not love him but Orsino is undeterred... Maria (Olivia's maid), Fabian, Sir Toby and Sir Andrew hate Malvolio. Maria writes a letter convincing Malvolio that Olivia loves him. Cesario meets Olivia, Olivia admitting she used the ring to see him again... Cesario tries to discourage Olivia without success. Sir Andrew decides to head home; Olivia is more interested in Cesario... Sir Toby and Fabian convince him into challenging Cesario instead.

Now in Illyria, Sebastian decides to look around, but Antonio, fearful of his enemies, heads for a lodging called "the Elephant." Antonio gives Sebastian his wallet, the two parting company... Malvolio humiliates himself in front of Olivia. Thinking him mad, she has him put into the care of her servants. Sir Toby scares Sir Andrew and Cesario into attacking each other. Antonio arrives, pledging to fight on Cesario's behalf, thinking Cesario is Sebastian. Antonio is captured. Antonio asks Cesario for his wallet back but Cesario, not recognising him, refuses. Antonio thinks Sebastian has betrayed him, not realising he is speaking to Cesario.

Sir Toby and Sebastian are about to fight but Olivia stops Sir Toby, hoping Sebastian, whom she thinks is Cesario, will not be displeased with her. Sebastian falls in love with Olivia, secretly marrying Olivia... Antonio, meeting Cesario again asks for his wallet back thinking he is Sebastian. Cesario, not knowing Antonio, does not return the wallet. Imprisoned, Antonio baffles Orsino by telling him that he and Cesario have been together for three weeks. Orsino cannot believe this; Cesario has been with him for three weeks. Olivia arrives, scolding Cesario for neglecting his wife. Orsino, thinking Cesario has taken Olivia for himself, prepares to punish him. Olivia is upset her husband would rather be punished by Orsino than be with her! Sebastian arrives. Orsino, seeing Cesario and Sebastian together, is amazed to see two copies of the same man. Sebastian and Cesario eventually realise they are brother and sister. Cesario reveals he is Viola. The cruel prank against Malvolio is revealed. Orsino calls Olivia his sister, and Orsino takes Cesario as his lover...


Dramatis Personæ

Act I
Scene I, Scene II, Scene III, Scene IV, Scene V

Act II
Scene I,
Scene II, Scene III, Scene IV, Scene V


Scene I, Scene II, Scene III, Scene IV

Act IV
Scene I, Scene II, Scene III

Act V
Scene I

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