As we continue our Twelfth Night plot summary, entering Act Two, we’re now taken to an Illyrian lodging where we find Antonio and Sebastian, with the former pleading with the latter not to leave. Just as Olivia just a scene earlier said that “Fate (had) show(n) (its) force” (I.v.299), Sebastian fears that staying with Antonio would adversely affect him because of the “malignancy of (Sebastian’s) fate” (II.i.4).
And what’s so bad about what’s happened to Sebastian? He tries to explain:
Antonio, my name is Sebastian, which I called Roderigo. My father was that Sebastian of Messaline whom I know you have heard of. He left behind him myself and a sister, both born in an hour. If the heavens had been pleased, would we had so ended! But you, sir, altered that, for some hour before you took me from the breach of the sea was my sister drowned.
Sebastian had a twin sister, and while Antonio’s ship saved Sebastian from the ocean, Sebastian’s sister drowned. Interesting. Wait. You don’t think– This couldn’t be– Maybe– Nah, too coincidental.
As we continue our Twelfth Night plot summary, the fifth and final scene of Act One takes us back to Olivia’s estate, where the scene begins much like the earlier scene at the estate, with Maria reprimanding one of the men of the house. In this case, it’s Feste the clown who has been “absent” (I.v.3) from the home and his entertaining duties, and Olivia is not happy about it.
So much so that when Feste greets the countess, she responds, “Take the fool away” (I.v.35). Feste then uses his foolish skills (and I mean that in a good way) to show Olivia the error of her (foolish) ways: Olivia’s brother is in Heaven, so if she mourns for him, then she‘s the fool. By the end of his dissertation, her respect for his skills overrides her earlier anger, as she asks her steward, “What think you of this fool, Malvolio? Doth he not mend?” (I.v.69-70).
If you know the rough outline of the play’s plot, you might assume that the Twelfth Night plot summary would begin with the shipwreck that strands Viola in Illyria. And you’d be wrong to make that assumption. Instead, we get a ridiculously lovesick duke and one of the most famous opening lines in Shakespeare:
This week’s Shakespeare news review includes Shakespeare for the Elizabethan Impaired, the Macbeth curse, Shakespeare Unrehearsed, Cook Cafe, and Suddenly Shakespeare. PLUS our usual recap of this week’s daily highlights in Shakespearean history.
If you dig deep enough into the possible source materials that Shakespeare used for Twelfth Night, you can find a whole slew of suspects.
You want to talk twins and the confusion that can arise from mistaken identity (like The Comedy of Errors)? Check out the old Greek play, Plautus’ Menaechmi, which actually was a source of that earlier play).
If, however, you want to talk about the concept of the female disguising herself as a young male, to work for a(nother) male, who tasks her/him to plead his suit to a(nother) female, who in turn falls in love with the first female, but as the young male, who–of course–has fallen for the male who has hired her (as a him)… well, then you’ve got quite the tangle coming up.
I know, I know… I should be reading Twelfth Night.
But you know me, always playing around the work.
So here’s my latest plaything, an infographic that visually represents the Collected Works of Shakespeare. Each pixel of the full size version represents a line of text. The histories are in shades of purple (royalty, baby), comedies in green (verdant), poems in yellow (no reason), tragedies in red (duh), problem plays in brown (murky, like their genre classification), and tragicomedies in blue (again, no reason, just a vibe).
A shout-out and thanks to William Sutton, who gave me some information re: the sonnets that changes the legend/content of the graphic.