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Twelfth Night (play)
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Twelfth Night (play)

Twelfth Night, or What You Will is a comedy by William Shakespeare.

The play is so named after the Twelfth Night holiday. Since it is difficult to see any allusion to Epiphany in the play, many suspect the play was written to be performed during Twelfth Night celebrations.

Shakespeare's play, like so many of his comedies, centres on mistaken identity. The leading character, Viola, is shipwrecked in a hostile country during the opening scenes. She loses contact with her twin brother, Sebastian, whom she believes dead. Masquerading as a boy under the name Cesario, she enters the service of Duke Orsino. Orsino is in love with the bereaved Lady Olivia, and uses Viola as an intermediary.

Olivia, believing Viola to be male, falls in love with her. Viola, in turn, falls in love with the Duke. When Sebastian arrives on the scene, confusion ensues. Befitting a comedy, the play ends in marriage with the Duke marrying Viola and Olivia marrying Sebastian.

Much of the play is taken up with the comic sub-plot, in which several characters conspire to make Olivia's head steward Malvolio believe that the lady Olivia wishes to marry him. It involves Olivia's uncle, Sir Toby Belch, her would-be suitor, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, her handmaiden, Maria, and her father's favorite fool, Feste.

Although this is one of Shakespeare's most popular and funniest comedies, it has a dark side, as the behaviour of Sir Toby and Feste towards Malvolio becomes increasingly cruel towards the end.

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