Twelfth Night: A Brief Story
William Shakespeare has composed several fantastic comedies. Twelfth Night is one of them. It is a beautiful romantic comedy of five acts. Its story is very interesting.
The Scene I of Act 1 opens in the Duke’s palace in Illyria. The name of the Duke is Orsino. He has deep love for a countess named Lady Olivia. That’s why he sends proposal of marriage to her. But Olivia rejects his offer of marriage because she is sorry and she is in mourning for her dead brother.
The Scene II of this Act takes the readers to sea-coast of Illyria. It has been shown that on the sea-coast a captain and some sailors are landing. With them there is a beautiful unmarried young lady named Viola who plays the pivotal role in this play. All these persons are the victims of a shipwreck. Viola’s twin brother Sebastian was also voyaging by that ill fated ship. Sebastian was seen by the captain struggling against the strong waves after the shipwreck. But no one knows whether he is alive or dead. The captain tells Viola that Illyria is ruled by a Duke. The house of the countess is also close by. Viola first thinks of going to the countess in search of a job but finally decides to go to the Duke. She disguises herself as a boy servant named Cesario.
The Scene III of this Act deals with the activities of the residence of Olivia. A kinsman named Sir Toby lives there. He has invited his friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek to live with him. Actually he wants to develop love relationship between Olivia and Sir Andrew. Sir Toby is excessively fond of wine. Olivia’s maid servant Maria informs Sir Toby of Olivia’s disapproval of his habit of drinking. She also expresses Olivia’s disliking for Sir Andrew.
The Scene IV of this Act brings the readers back to the palace of Orsino. Viola (Cesario) has been appointed as his boy servant. Only within three days Viola becomes the Duke’s favourite. He sends this boy servant to Olivia to convince her. Viola herself is fascinated by the charming personality of the Duke and falls in love with him. But she does not expose this love.
In Scene V, Viola with her new name Cesario reaches Olivia’s residence. She makes a spirited attempt to enkindle love in Olivia’s heart for the Duke. It was a very difficult task for Viola. Olivia firmly rejects the Duke’s proposal. She is attracted towards Viola’s handsome features and falls in love with Viola. In order to see Cesario again she makes pretence that Cesario has dropped a ring which she does not want to accept. Actually, under this pretext Olivia sends her own ring through Malvolio as a token of love.
The Scene I of Act 2 once again opens on the sea- coast. We know that Viola is alive and healthy but her brother Sebastian has lost all hopes of her survival. He himself has been rescued by a kind gentleman named Antonio. In order to get some job Sebastian thinks of going to the court of Orsino. Antonio helps him in this context. He goes with Sebastian to show the court of Orsino though he has many enemies in the city.
In scene II of this Act 2 the action takes place in a street of Illyria. This scene takes us back to the story of Olivia. Malvolio, a messenger of Olivia, gives a ring to Cesario (Viola). Cesario understands its mystery well. She takes pity on Olivia for loving a lady like her own. She feels the delicacy of the situation caused by her disguise.
The scene III of this Act shows that in Olivia’s residence Sir Toby and Sir Andrew are taking excessive wine and losing their senses. The clown is also enjoying himself. Maria wants to control them but all her attempts fail. In the meantime Malvolio enters and scolds them for their behavior. Now Maria makes a plan to tease Malvolio by sending him a love letter with the forged signature of Olivia.
In scene IV we find that Cesario informs the Duke of the firm dislike of Olivia for him. Here the Duke discusses love with all its sentimental intricacies with Cesario. During the course of the discussion Cesario (Viola) gives a hint of her love to the Duke. But the Duke does not understand her sentiment because his mind is preoccupied with the thought of Olivia. He sends Viola again to see Olivia and this time he sends a present to her.
In Scene V Maria gets success in befooling Malvolio. She drops a fake love letter of Olivia before Malvolio in such a way that it attracts the attention of Malvolio. The letter is carefully worded and is bound to create a misconception in the mind of Malvolio. Malvolio finds the letter and starts showing a ridiculous conduct.
Now starts Scene I of Act 3. Here we see that Viola comes to the residence of Olivia. She discharges her duty again very earnestly and sincerely. She tries her best to convince Olivia. But she does not succeed. Olivia is firm in her resolution and she rejects the offer of Orsino in plain words. She, however, feels satisfied as she gets another chance of seeing Cesario (Viola).
In Scene II of this Act we see Sir Toby and Sir Andrew. Sir Toby realizes Olivia’s inclination towards Cesario. Thus he encourages Sir Andrew to challenge Cesario to a duel. Sir Andrew agrees and prepares the text of the challenge. In the meantime Maria enters the scene and informs them of the success of her plot. She tells how Malvolio is following the instructions of that sham letter.
In Scene III we find Sebastian. He is wandering in the street of Illyria. Antonio is following him. He is ready to take all risks for him. He tells Sebastian that Duke’s men are his enemy. If they recognize him, he will be in danger. He therefore gives his purse to Sebastian and goes to a safe place and a point is decided to reunite.
The Scene IV of this Act carries us to the garden of Olivia. Olivia calls Malvolio who appears before her in a very absurd dress. In fact, he is carrying out the instructions of that sham letter. Maria has already informed Olivia about his absurd behavior. Seeing his strange behavior, Olivia declares him mad and sends him under the care of Sir Toby. Sir Toby locks him in a dark room.
Now we get that a duel is to start between Sir Andrew and Cesario (Viola) in an open place. In the meantime Antonio passes by. He suffers from confusion. He considers Viola as Sebastian and expresses his desire to fight against Sir Andrew. Suddenly Duke’s men appear and recognize Antonio who was an enemy for them. He is arrested. When he is being taken to prison he asks for his purse from Viola. Viola does not understand the story of purse. But she now hopes that her brother might be alive.
Act 4 starts now. Scene I of this Act is very interesting. We see that Olivia’s love for Cesario has become intolerable. She sends Feste, the clown, to bring Cesario to her. Feste gets Sebastian on the way. In confusion he considers Sebastian as Cesario (Viola). He takes him to Olivia. While he is coming, Sir Andrew is deceived by the resemblance. Suddenly he attacks him. In the meantime Olivia appears. She too is deceived by resemblance. She considers Sebastian as Cesario. She controls Sir Andrew and expresses her boundless love for him. Sebastian is in utter amazement and he goes to Olivia’s house with her.
In scene II we get some comical activities of Mavolio and Feste. In scene III we see that a priest is invited by Olivia. In the presence of this priest Olivia and Sebastian swear solemn vows of love.
There is only one scene in Act 5. In this scene all the complication are resolved and misunderstandings removed. All the characters gather together. The mystery of Viola and Sebastian is unveiled. Viola is happy to find his brother safe and sound. Orsino is now in love with Viola. Malvolio is released. Sir Toby exposes the secret of his marriage with Maria. Thus the play ends.