"If music be the food of love, play on.”

Photo Credit:  Peter Hellberg

Twelfth Night Synopsis

Duke Orsino, the ruler of Illyria, is sick with love for the Lady Olivia. She is grieving for her dead brother and refuses to entertain any suitors. A young woman named Viola survives a shipwreck and comes ashore in Illyria. Afraid that her twin brother has drowned, Viola believes that she will be safer in a strange country if she disguises herself as a man and calls herself “Cesario.” Viola goes to Orsino’s court, where the Duke quickly decides to send her to woo Olivia for him. Viola agrees to be his messenger although she herself has fallen in love with Orsino. Olivia invites Viola (in the disguise of Cesario) to deliver the duke’s message and believing that Cesario is a man, falls in love with him. Meanwhile, Maria, Olivia’s waiting gentlewoman, enlists Sir Toby Belch, Olivia’s kinsman, and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, another of Olivia’s suitors, to convince Malvolio, Olivia’s steward, that Olivia is in love with him. Malvolio falls for the trick and begins to plan how he will marry Olivia. Olivia declares her love to Cesario, who reacts with confusion. An angered Sir Andrew Aguecheek challenges Cesario to a duel.

Viola’s twin brother Sebastian survived the shipwreck and has secretly arrived in Illyria in the company of a sea captain named Antonio and goes to visit Orsino’s city. Malvolio declares his love to Olivia. Believing that he has gone mad, Olivia sends him away, where he is tormented by Maria and Sir Toby. Sir Toby forces Sir Andrew and Cesario to duel. Antonio, believing that Cesario is Sebastian, intervenes in the duel to rescue his friend, but is immediately arrested by city officials.

Antonio is angry when the man he believes is Sebastian denies their friendship, but Viola is happy because Antonio has given her hope that her brother may be alive.

Olivia, thinking Sebastian is Cesario, once again declares her love. A delighted Sebastian agrees to marry her. Orsino arrives at Olivia’s house, along with Antonio, Sir Toby and Sir Andrew, and Viola, who is still disguised as Cesario. The scene is chaotic, with many accusations of trickery and wrongdoing. Sebastian arrives and gradually helps to explain the confusion. Viola shed she manly disguise and Orsino asks to become his wife. 

For more information and for Twelfth Night teaching tools, please visit: