Summary of Twelfth Night- CSEC English B


Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare is a romantic comedy that features a complex and engaging plot with elements of mistaken identity, love triangles, and humorous situations.

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The play is divided into five acts, and its plot can be summarized as follows:

Act 1:

  • The play begins with a shipwreck off the coast of Illyria. Viola, a young woman, is separated from her twin brother, Sebastian, in the chaos.
  • Viola decides to disguise herself as a young man, Cesario, to better navigate this foreign land. She enters the service of Duke Orsino, who is in love with Countess Olivia but cannot win her affection.
  • Orsino sends Cesario (Viola in disguise) to woo Olivia on his behalf, not knowing that Viola has fallen in love with Orsino.

Act 2:

  • Meanwhile, Olivia, mourning the death of her brother, rejects Orsino’s advances. However, she becomes infatuated with Cesario (Viola).
  • Sir Toby Belch, Olivia’s uncle, encourages the foolish Sir Andrew Aguecheek to pursue Olivia. Maria, Olivia’s maid, hatches a plan with Sir Toby to trick the steward Malvolio.

Act 3:

  • Viola (Cesario) returns to Olivia, delivering messages of love from Orsino. Olivia, in turn, continues to express her affection for Cesario.
  • The subplot involving the trickery of Malvolio is set into motion, with a forged letter making him believe Olivia loves him and advising him to behave strangely.

Act 4:

  • Viola’s twin brother, Sebastian, who survived the shipwreck, arrives in Illyria with his friend Antonio.
  • Mistakenly, Olivia encounters Sebastian, thinking he is Cesario (Viola). She professes her love, and they quickly marry.
  • The subplot involving Malvolio’s bizarre behaviour unfolds, leading to his confinement in a dark room.

Act 5:

  • Viola and Sebastian are finally reunited, and their true identities are revealed. Orsino realizes his love for Viola, and Olivia discovers she has married Sebastian, not Cesario.
  • Malvolio is released from confinement, and the play concludes with the characters pairing off in marriages: Orsino with Viola, Olivia with Sebastian, and others.
  • Feste, the fool, delivers the closing lines, emphasizing the theme of revelry associated with Twelfth Night.

The play’s structure involves a series of romantic entanglements, mistaken identities, and comedic situations, all set against the backdrop of the festive and topsy-turvy atmosphere of Twelfth Night. The resolution brings about a harmonious conclusion with marriages and reunions, highlighting the comedic and joyful nature of the play.

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