Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

May 13-17 & 20-24, 2008 @ 8:00 P.M.
Saturday matinees 2:00 P.M. May 17 & May 24


Production Poster

Shakespeare's romantic comedy is full of mistaken identities and confusion. A brother is lost and found, true love is thwarted and misdirected, but the plot and subplots are happily resolved in the end.

Matt Davis brings his experience and finesse to this, his directorial debut.

Theatre: Good Night; Actor Matt Davis makes his directorial debut...

See Greg Burliuk's interview in The Ticket.

The Story of Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night was written for Queen Elizabeth as a celebration of the Christmas Holidays. The secondary title; 'What you Will' perhaps could mean to say; What you wish or desire or want. There was an Italian nobleman by the name of Orsini that the Queen had a certain fondness for and thus he was immortalized in the play.

In a land called Illyria a young woman named Viola is washed up on shore after the ship she was travelling in sinks during a storm. She fears her twin brother Sebastian has been drowned. She dresses up as a boy for protection. She seeks employment in the house of Duke Orsino. Orsino is unhappy because he holds a torch for the lady Olivia who has sworn off all men while she mourns the loss of her brother and father. Despite the entreaties Orsino has sent to her, she is unmoved.

The head of her household staff is a puritan by the name of Malvolio(sick or bad desire)which I guess suggests what Shakespeare thought of the puritans.

Malvolio, Viola, and Olivia are all very similar names. Interestingly, in the beginning Orsino is listening to music and says 'If music be the food of love, play on' A viola is obviously a stringed instrument. Viola says she will serve the duke and make music for him.



Meanwhile, Olivia's drunken uncle Sir Toby Belch consorts with a rich lord by the name of Sir Andrew Aguecheek, He is a fool but Sir Toby suffers his presence because he has an allowance and Sir Toby sees him as a continual supply of money. There is a mischievious maid by the name of Maria. Maria detests Malvolio, the puritan head of the household so she cooks up a plan to bewitch him. She makes up a letter as if it was from Olivia professes her undying love for him. In the letter, she urges Malvolio to dress up in a bizarre fashion and try to woo her.

Feste is a fool that wanders through both the households of Olivia and Orsino.

A note about the play. It is more bittersweet comedy than anything else. While there is a great deal of comedy, there is also a degree of melancholy. Perhaps Shakespeare saw the writing on the wall, that the royal party was soon going to be closed down by the puritans. Drink while we can for soon we shall die.

Orsino sends Viola who he knows as Cesario to woo the Lady Olivia for him. Viola is so passionate in her message because she has fallen in love with Orsino. Olivia is moved by that passion and falls in love with Viola, believing her to be a young man.

When Malvolio tried to woo Olivia under the mistaken belief that Olivia loves him from the forged letter that Maria has dropped in his path, he is locked in a cellar for being mad. Feste the clown visits him as a priest and mocks him

Meanwhile, Sebastian; Viola's twin brother has not been drowned and shows up in town. Olivia sees him and tries to seduce him thinking that he is Viola. Sebastian does not resist. Orsino has fallen in love with Cesario, who is in reality Viola and when he discovers she is really a young woman so much the better. Sir Toby proposes to Maria and they are wed as well. So three couples are being married off.



Malvolio is delivered from his basement assylum and when he finds out that Sir Toby, Maria, Fests and Sir Andrew Agucheek have tormented him to satiate their own thirst for laughs he storms out vowing. 'I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you!' Unlike many of Shakespear's comedies this exit line leaves a dark cloud over the play. Twelfth Night anticipates the revenge driven Prospero who at the end of the play forgives his foes and forgoes his magic powers. These comedies have comedy in them, but they are more than that. They also have great sadness in them. As Shakespeare developed his craft he moved from simple genre stuff like comedies or tragedies and stretched the English dramatic form so that there is a weight to these comedies, a gravitas that his genius could not but help bring to his later works.

After all, life is about staring at death in the mirror. Humour and laughter is only a brief respite from the inevitable tragedy that is life. The end is never pretty and perhaps even Shakespeare was finding humour to ring hollow.

There is no happy end for the foolish Sir Andrew Aguecheek who has been fleeced of his money by Sir Toby, and there is no happy ending for Malvolio whose name can be seen to mean bad wish or bad desire.

When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.
- Feste the Clown

Download the Twelfth Night program .pdf.
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Twelfth Night.

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