Theatre, Chatsworth Centre, West Gate, Long Eaton
Twelfth Night - one of Shakespeare's funniest and most accessible plays!
It's a comic and sometimes riotous play about mistaken identity and self
You don't need to be a Shakespeare buff to get the knockabout physical
comedy, and the excruciatingly funny comic situations. Long before
Ayckbourne did it, Shakespeare was writing humour to make us squirm as
well as laugh.
If you want to understand the plot before you come (but you probably
won't need to) here's a summary - (remember it's a lot funnier on
iola is shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria and she comes ashore with
the help of a captain. She loses contact with her twin brother,
Sebastian, whom she believes to be dead. Disguising herself as a young
man under the name Cesario, she enters the service of Duke Orsino
through the help of the sea captain who rescues her. Orsino has
convinced himself that he is in love with Olivia, whose father and
brother have recently died, and refuses to see any suitor until seven
years have passed, the Duke included. Orsino then uses Cesario (Viola)
as an intermediary to profess his passionate love before Olivia. Olivia
however, believing Viola to be a man, falls in love with Cesario
(Viola), while Viola has fallen in love with the Duke.
In the comic subplot, several characters conspire to make Olivia's
pompous steward, Malvolio, believe that his lady Olivia has fallen for
him. It involves Olivia's uncle, Sir Toby Belch; another would-be
suitor, a silly squire named Sir Andrew Aguecheek; her servants Maria
and Fabian and her fool, Feste. Sir Toby and Sir Andrew engage
themselves in drinking and revelry, thus disturbing the peace of their
lady's house until late into the night, prompting Malvolio to chastise
them. Sir Toby famously retorts, "Dost thou think, because thou art
virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?" (Act II, Scene III) Sir
Toby, Sir Andrew and Maria are provoked to plan revenge on Malvolio.
They convince Malvolio that Olivia is secretly in love with him by
planting a love letter, written by Maria in Olivia's hand, asking
Malvolio to wear yellow stockings cross-gartered, to be rude to the rest
of the servants, and to smile constantly in the presence of Olivia.
Malvolio finds the letter and reacts in surprised delight. He starts
acting out the contents of the letter to show Olivia his positive
response. Olivia is shocked by the changes in Malvolio, who has
seemingly lost his mind. She leaves him to the contrivances of his
tormentors. Pretending that Malvolio is insane, they lock him up in a
dark chamber. Feste visits him to mock his insanity, disguised as a
priest, and as himself. At the end of the play Malvolio learns of their
conspiracy and storms off promising revenge, but the Duke (Orsino) sends
Fabian to pacify him.
Meanwhile, Sebastian (who had been rescued by a sea captain, Antonio)
arrives on the scene, which adds confusion of mistaken identity.
Mistaking Sebastian for Viola, Olivia asks him to marry her, and they
are secretly married in a church. Finally, when Viola and Sebastian
appear in the presence of both Olivia and the Duke, there is more wonder
and confusion at their similarity. At this point Viola reveals she is a
female and that Sebastian is her twin brother. The play ends in a
declaration of marriage between the Orsino (Duke) and Viola, and it is
learned that Sir Toby has married Maria.
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