Department of English

Twelfth Night Synopsis

After the twins Viola and Sebastian are shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria, neither knows that the other is alive. The plucky Viola disguises herself as a young man, “Cesario”, and goes into the service of the Duke Orsino, with whom she falls in love. Orsino is besotted with the Lady Olivia, a wealthy countess who is in mourning for her brother’s death. Orsino sends Viola to woo her on his behalf, even though Olivia has typically scorned the advances of men. However, Viola is a little too successful, and Olivia falls in love with her male persona.

At the estate of Lady Olivia, Sir Toby Belch, Olivia’s uncle and a lover of revelry, has brought in the foolish knight Sir Andrew Aguecheek to be her suitor. Along with the witty fool Feste and their friends Maria and Fabian, they eat, drink, and make merry until they are harshly scolded by Malvolio, Olivia’s grouchy steward. The group of partying cohorts plots revenge by playing on Malvolio’s secret wish to marry Olivia and gain social status. They forge a letter that leads Malvolio to believe that Olivia is in love with him, and encourages him to go to ridiculous efforts in order to woo her.

Meanwhile, Viola’s brother Sebastian has been rescued by the notorious sea captain Antonio, and his similarity to his disguised sister causes much bafflement throughout Illyria. Confusion ensues in a tangled knot of mistaken identity, ludicrous pranks, joyous reunions, and ill-placed but lyrical love.