Book 4: Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare

Twins Viola and Sebastian are shipwrecked. Believing her brother drowned, and determined to survive alone, Viola disguises herself as a boy. As ‘Cesario’ she enters the service of Orsino and is sent by him to woo Olivia. But Olivia isn’t interested and ‘Cesario’ is swept into a merry-go-round world of unrequited love, mistaken identities, high comedy, low tricks and desperate passion.


I was very excited when I discovered that Twelfth Night was one of the texts that I would have to study for the English course I did last semester. I’ve only read Twelfth Night once before, back in 2009, but even so it is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, so getting to study it was a real treat. (Granted I would have been even more excited had it been Much Ado About Nothing on the course, but we can’t have everything. ;))

The most interesting characters, in my opinion, are Viola and Malvolio. Viola, for obvious reasons – she’s the main character and the one who goes undercover as a man in the Duke’s court. There’s just something very interesting about her motivations (she believes her twin is dead and she wants to hide away while she deals with her grief) especially when contrasted to Olivia, who is also in mourning for a dead brother. And of course, a lot of the comedy of the Olivia/Viola/Duke Orsino storyline comes from the fact that she is a woman masquerading as a man.

As for Malvolio, it would seem I have a tendency to find the “evil” characters the most interesting (for example, the only character that I like in Othello is Iago). Of course, Malvolio isn’t actually evil. He’s just serious and didactic and completely anti-fun (Shakespeare’s representation of the Puritan movement at the time who were against everything to do with the theatre, among other things). Plus he aspires to marry Olivia, rise above his station as just her steward, gain her fortune and finally have true power to reign in the unruly Sir Toby and Sir Andrew. And then there’s the second storyline about Malvolio, and Maria, Toby and Andrew punishing him and locking him up, etc., which is running through the play at the same time as the Olivia/Viola/Orsino storyline. The revenge plot cooked up by Maria (and supported by Toby and Andrew) makes for a lot of laughs, but when you look a bit closer at it, it really is actually quite sinister and diabolical.

I really love this play. I could talk about it forever, because despite being just a fluffy comedy on the surface, there is so much more going on in this play. Which makes it fantastic. 😀 Anyway, I’ll stop there before I bore anyone with my analyzing. 🙂

Suffice to say, I can’t wait until I can finally see a production of it on stage. Bell Shakespeare Company maybe you can do Tweltfh Night next, eh? Also, if you want to watch a good adaptation of it, you should check out the 1996 film with Helena Bonham Carter as Olivia. Brilliant, it is.


You can check out Twelfth Night on Goodreads, or you can order it from Amazon or Booktopia.


Books left: 146

Days left: 559

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