Twelfth Night (Folger Shakespeare Library)
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Named for the twelfth night after Christmas, the end of the Christmas season, Twelfth Night plays with love and power. The Countess Olivia, a woman with her own household, attracts Duke (or Count) Orsino. Two other would-be suitors are her pretentious steward, Malvolio, and Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
Onto this scene arrive the twins Viola and Sebastian; caught in a shipwreck, each thinks the other has drowned. Viola disguises herself as a male page and enters Orsino’s service. Orsino sends her as his envoy to Olivia—only to have Olivia fall in love with the messenger. The play complicates, then wonderfully untangles, these relationships.
The authoritative edition of Twelfth Night from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trusted and widely used Shakespeare series for students and general readers, includes:
-Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play
-Full explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play
-Scene-by-scene plot summaries
-A key to the play’s famous lines and phrases
-An introduction to reading Shakespeare’s language
-An essay by a leading Shakespeare scholar providing a modern perspective on the play
-Fresh images from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s vast holdings of rare books
-An annotated guide to further reading
Essay by Catherine Belsey
The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, is home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare’s printed works, and a magnet for Shakespeare scholars from around the globe. In addition to exhibitions open to the public throughout the year, the Folger offers a full calendar of performances and programs. For more information, visit Folger.edu.
sure I lack thee, may pass for a wise man. For what says Quinapalus?31 ‘Better a witty fool than a To Olivia foolish wit.’— God bless thee, lady. To Attendants OLIVIA Take the fool away. FESTE Do you not hear, fellows? Take away the lady. OLIVIA Go to, you’re a dry35 fool. I’ll no more of you. Besides, you grow dishonest.36 FESTE Two faults, Madonna37, that drink and good counsel will amend. For give the dry fool drink, then is the fool not dry: bid the dishonest man
VIOLA Excellently done, if God did all.217 OLIVIA ’Tis in grain218, sir, ’twill endure wind and weather. VIOLA ’Tis beauty truly blent, whose red and white219 Nature’s own sweet and cunning220 hand laid on. Lady, you are the cruell’st she221 alive, If you will lead these graces222 to the grave And leave the world no copy.223 OLIVIA O, sir, I will not be so hard-hearted. I will give out divers schedules of my beauty. It shall be inventoried225, and every particle and
of Reads these letters are in my name. Soft, here follows prose: ‘If this fall into thy hand, revolve. In my stars124 I am above thee, but be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em. Thy Fates open their hands. Let thy blood and spirit127 embrace them. And to inure thyself to what thou art like128 to be, cast thy humble slough and appear fresh. Be opposite129 with a kinsman, surly with servants. Let thy tongue
character degenerating through appalling suffering into real madness”:69 [Malvolio] gives the impression of groping around in the darkness while his voice is amplified to suggest a hollow cellar … [he] is tied to a stake like a bear and he whirls round it like some mad animal. At the end of the scene, he presses Olivia’s crumpled letter against his cheek, with a tormented, hallucinated look on his face. This is an extremely powerful scene, which suggests, in a pathetic way, that the borderline
Like someone letting off an air-raid siren in the middle of a violin concerto. 7. Simon Russell Beale as Malvolio in Sam Mendes’ 2002 production at the Donmar Warehouse in London—the letter scene set in a bedroom (“the box-tree was actually a screen with a print of a box-tree on it. That unlocked a lot of different things in the role”). 8. The humiliation of Malvolio goes “way too far. So does the humiliation of Olivia when she realizes she’s married the wrong teenager”: Jason Merrells as