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Twelfth Night Production Guide: Summary

This guide is a starting point for research about a campus production of Twelfth Night

Act 1, Scene 1

It's about love. 

Orsino is in love wth Olivia who is mourning the death of her beloved brother and will not see any visitors for seven years.

Notable Quote:

Orsino: If music be the food of love, play on.


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Act 1, Scene 2

She's the man. Viola becomes Cesario..

Shipwrecked off the coast of Illyria, Viola believes her twin brother is dead.  She decides to dress as a man and present herself as a servant to Orsino, Duke of Illyria.

Notable Quotes: 

Viola:What country, friends, is this? 

Viola: Conceal me what I am.

Act 1, Scene 3

Drunken Disorder

Sir Toby Belch disrupts his niece's household and is scolded by Maria, the maid. He convinces his drinking companion, Sir Andrew, to stay longer, to pursue Olivia.

Notable Quote:

Sir Toby: Confine! I'll confine myself no finer than I am / these clothes are good enough to drink in; and so be / these boots too: an they be not, let them hang / themselves in their own straps.

Act 1, Scene 4

Messenger of Love

Viola, disguised as Cesario, becomes Orsino's messenger and is sent to woo Olivia on the Duke's behalf. Viola reveals she is in love with the Duke.

Notable Quote:

Orsino: I have unclasp'd to thee the book even of my secret soul.

Image Source: Folger Shakespeare Library Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Act 1, Scene 5

He loves her but she loves him not.

Feste teases Olivia but she doesn't think he is funny. Cesario tells Olivia that Orsino loves her. Olivia doesn't love him but begins to fall in love with Cesario. To ensure that she sees Cesario again, Olivia asks Malvolio to deliver a ring tto Cesario under the pretense that it is a gift from Orsino that she wants returned. 

Notable Quotes:

Viola: Make me a willow cabin at your gate and call upon my soul within the house.

Feste: Better a witty fool, than a foolish wit.

Act 2, Scene 1

Sebastian lives.

Sebastian, rescued from the shipwreck by the sea captain, Antonio, arrives in Illyria. He believes his sister, Viola, is dead and goes to see Orsino.

Notable Quote:

Antonio: If you will not murder me for my love, let me be your servant.

ACT 2, Scene 2

Love means never having to say you're sorry.

Malvolio gives Cesario the ring and reiterates that Olivia cannot love the Duke. Viola feels sorry for herself for being in love with the Duke, and sorry for Olivia for being in love with her.

Notable Quotes:

Viola: Oh Time, thou must untangle this, not I. It is too hard a knot for me t'untie. 

Viola: Disguise, I see, thou art a wickedness.


Image Source: Folger Shakespeare Library Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Act 2, Scene 3

Party on.

Sir Toby, Feste, and Sir Andrew are very drunk and disrupt Olivia's household late at night. Malvolio tries to restore order but to no avail. Maria and the three men plot revenge against Malvolio.

Notable Quote:

Sir Toby [to Malvolio]:Art any more than a steward? Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?

Act 2, Scene 4

Can women love as deeply as men?

Cesario and Orsino discuss love. Orsino gives Cesario a jewel for Olivia. 

Notable Quote:

Viola: She never told her love, but let concealment, like a worm 'i th' bud, feed on her damask cheek. She pinned in thought; and, with a green and yellow melancholy, she sat like Patience on a monument, smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed? We men may say more, swear more: but indeed / Our shows are more than will; for still we prove / Much in our vows, but little in our love.

Act 2, Scene 5

A Love Letter in Praise of  Yellow Stockings and Cross-Garters

Maria writes a love letter in Olivia's hand and leaves it for Malvolio. In the letter, Malvolio is asked to wear yellow stockings, cross-garters, and to smile. Sir Toby, Feste, and Sir Andrew hide in a box tree to watch the plot unfold. 

Notable Quote:

Malvolio reading a letter: Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em.  

Image Source: Folger Shakespeare Library Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Act 3, Scene 1

A Confession of Love

Viola/Cesario meets Feste and they exchange witty remarks.Viola says she needs to give Olivia her message in private and everyone leaves. Olivia admits to Viola/Cesario that she made up the left behind ring so that she could give something to him to show her affection. Olivia declares her love but Viola/Cesario replies she has only one heart and it will never belong to a woman.

Notable Quotes:

Viola: I am not what I am.

Olivia: I would you were as I would have you be!

Olivia: Love sought is good, but giv'n unsought is better. 


Act 3, Scene 2

A Duel Over Olivia

Sir Toby convinces Sir Andrew to challenge Cesario  to a duel to win her heart.

Notable Quote:

Sir Toby: For Andrew, if he were opened, and you find so much blood in his liver as  will clog the foot of a flea, I'll eat the rest of  the anatomy.

Act 3, Scene 3

Antonio makes his feelings known

Sebastian thanks Antonio for devoting so much time to helping him. Antonio replies that he enjoys helping Sebastian because he loves Sebastian and they're friends. Antonio does not want to walk openly around town because he was in a sea battle with Illyria and is wanted by Orsino. Antonio gives Sebastian his purse who goes into town.

Notable Quote:

Antonio: I could not stay behind you: my desire, / More sharp than filed steel, did spur me forth.

Act 3, Scene 4

Malvolio Makes a Fashion Statement and is Locked Up.

When Olivia sees Malvolio who is acting strangely. He is smiling and wearing cross-gartered yellow stockings. Malvolio thinks Olivia is secretly in love with him from a letter she wrote but was actually written by Maria. Sir Toby and Maria lock Malvolio in a dark room and tell him he is crazy,

Notable Quote:

Fabian: If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction. 

Image Source: Folger Shakespeare Library Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Act 4, Scene 1

Seeing Double

Andrew, Toby, and Fabian think that Sebastian is Cesario, whom Andrew has been planning to challenge to a duel over Olivia. Andrew and Sebastian fight, and Olivia intervenes. Sebastian is confused because Olivia is treating him as if she knows him as well.

Notable Quote:

Sebastian: What relish is in this? how runs the stream?
Or I am mad, or else this is a dream:

Act 4, Scene 2

The Fool fools Malvolio.

Feste dresses as Sir Topaz, the curate, and visits Malvolio in prison. Maria and Sir Toby watch as Feste torments Malvolio. When Maria and Sir Toby leave, Feste becomes himself and Malvolio asks him to help write a letter to Olivia.

Notable Quotes:

Malvolio: And I say, there was never  man thus abused. I am no more mad than you are.

Feste: I say, there is no darkness but ignorance.

Act 4, Scene 3

Sebastian and Olivia marry.

Olivia meets Sebastian and thinks he is Cesario. They marry immediately.

Notable Quote:

Sebastian: And wrangle with my reason that persuades me
To any other trust but that I am mad
Or else the lady's mad;


Image Source: Folger Shakespeare Library Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Act 5, Scene 1

All is revealed. 

Mistaken identities are cleared up, and couples are wed. Some ambiguities, however, remain.

Notables Quotes:

Antonio: An apple, cleft in two, is not more twin /Than these two creatures.

Feste: Thus the whirligig of time brings his revenges.