Title: Twelfth Night, or What You Will
Playwright: William Shakespeare
Published / Performed: 1601
Type of Text: Play
Main Characters: Viola, a survivor of a shipwreck, who disguises herself as a man under the name of Cesario; her twin brother Sebastian, and Antonio who rescues him. Orsino, duke of Illyria; the noblewoman Olivia, whom Orsino wishes to woo; Olivia’s kinsman Sir Toby, and his friend Sir Andrew, who wishes to marry Olivia himself; Olivia’s handmaid Maria, unpopular steward Malvolio, and fool Feste.
Themes & Imagery: Music. Brothers and sisters, especially twins; sibling grief. Disguise and deception, gender play and androgyny; masculine bravado; different roles and social abilities of men and women. Marriage, with Olivia thought foolish for refusing to marry.
My Top Five Lines & Passages:
Viola as Cesario tells Orsino that women can love as well as men, Act 2 scene 4 lines 94-124:
Orsino: There is no woman’s sides
Can bide the beating of so strong a passion
As love doth give my heart, no woman’s heart
So big, to hold so much. They lack retention.
Alas, their love may be calked appetite,
No motion of the liver, but the palate,
That suffer surfeit, cloyment and revolt.
But mine is all as hungry as the sea,
And can digest as much. Make no compare
Between that love a woman can bear me
And that I owe Olivia.
Viola: Ay, but I know –
Orsino: What dost thou know?
Viola: Too well what love women to men may owe:
In faith, they are as true of heart as we.
My father had a daughter loved a man,
As it might be, perhaps, were I a woman,
I should your lordship.
Orsino: And what’s her history?
Viola: A blank, my lord. She never told her love,
But let concealment, like a worm i’th’bud,
Feed on her damask cheek: she pined in thought,
And with a green and yellow melancholy
She sat like patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief. Was this not 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.
Orsino: But died thy sister of her love, my boy?
Viola: I am all the daughters of my father’s house,
And all the brothers too, and yet I know not.