In Twelfth Night, there are no nuclear families intact.
Unusual names in Twelfth Night:
Olivia. Viola. Malvolio.
Yet they do have some things in common.
O. L. I. A.
too bad it’s not M O A I … heh heh
This week’s Shakespeare news review includes “Wherefore: Shakespeare in Raleigh,” Forensic Shakespeare, and play announcements and reviews. PLUS our usual recap of this week’s daily highlights in Shakespearean history.
As we begin our second read-through and deeper dive into Twelfth Night, let’s take a moment and take a look at the names. Some are fitting, some not, some seemingly unrelated at all.
This week’s podcast kicks off off our two month-long discussion of the last of Shakespeare’s great comedies with a Twelfth Night plot summary.
As we conclude our Twelfth Night plot summary, the fifth and final act of the play begins at Olivia’s estate with Fabian asking Feste to see the letter from Malvolio. Duke Orsino and his entourage, including Cesario, arrive to speak with Olivia. After a little witty banter between Orsino and Feste, the officers come to the duke with their prisoner, Antonio.
Orsino recognizes him immediately, and magnanimously remembers that “very envy and the tongue of loss // Cried fame and honor upon him” (V.i.55-6). Cesario commends Antonio to Orsino, recounting how Antonio had drawn on his behalf. After Orsino asks the pirate and thief why he has come to Illyria, Antonio refuses those monikers, accepts that of Antonio’s enemy, says that it was “witchcraft” (V.i.73) in the form of “that most ingrateful boy” (V.i.74). He then goes over how he had given over his purse, but then was refused when he asked for it back for his bail.
As we continue our Twelfth Night plot summary, Act Four begins at Olivia’s estate, where Feste the clown meets who he thinks is Cesario. Only it’s not. It’s Sebastian. He wants nothing to do with the clown, to which Feste can only list the things he knows to be true, concluding, “Nothing that is so is so” (IV.i.8). The irony is that nothing is what it seems at this point. Sebastian even tries to bribe Feste into leaving him alone, using the money Antonio tried to get returned from Cesario.
When Sir Andrew enters and strikes Sebastian, thinking he’s Cesario, Sebastian strikes him back, and says, “Are all the people mad?” (IV.i.26).
A legitimate question.
As we continue our Twelfth Night plot summary, the fourth scene of Act Three takes us back to Olivia’s estate, where the countess and Maria enter. Even with her waiting gentlewoman, Olivia’s first words are an aside, not to be heard by Maria,
How shall I feast him? What bestow of him?
For youth is bought more oft than begged or borrowed.
I speak too loud.—
This week’s Shakespeare news review includes The Tempest through the prism of race, Method in Madness tour, Romeo + Julieta by Shakespeare on the Rocks, and “Inebriated Shakespeare.” PLUS our usual recap of this week’s daily highlights in Shakespearean history.
As we continue our Twelfth Night plot summary, the beginning of Act Three takes us back to Olivia’s estate, where Cesario/Viola has gone to deliver Orsino’s jewel to the countess. Cesario is greeted by Feste, and the scene begins with some witty banter and wordplay about… well, words, which may be made “wanton” (III.i.15) by those who “dally nicely” (III.i.14) with them.
When the clown leaves to let Olivia know that Cesario is there, Viola muses on what wit is needed to “play the fool… a practice // As full of labor as a wise man’s art” (III.i.59, 64-5). The juxtaposition between Feste and Viola’s discussion of playing the fool with the entrance of two stooges, Sirs Toby and Andrew, is striking, and because of it, we see just how witty and smart Viola is.