full title · Twelfth Night, or What You Will
author · William Shakespeare
type of work · Play
genre · Comedy
language · English
time and place written · Between 1600 and 1602, England
date of first publication · 1623, in the First Folio
publisher · Isaac Jaggard and Edward Blount
tone · Light, cheerful, comic; occasionally frantic and melodramatic, especially in the speeches of Orsino and Olivia
tense · Present (the entire story is told through dialogue)
setting (time) · Unknown
setting (place) · The mythical land of Illyria (Illyria is a real place, corresponding to the coast of present-day Albania—but Twelfth Night is clearly set in a fictional kingdom rather than a real one)
protagonist · Viola
major conflict · Viola is in love with Orsino, who is in love with Olivia, who is in love with Viola’s male disguise, Cesario. This love triangle is complicated by the fact that neither Orsino nor Olivia knows that Viola is really a woman.
rising action · The mounting confusion, mistaken identities, and professions of love leading up to Act V
climax · Sebastian and Viola are reunited, and everyone realizes that Viola is really a woman
falling action · Viola prepares to marry Orsino; Malvolio is freed and vows revenge; everyone else goes off to celebrate
themes · Love as a cause of suffering; the uncertainty of gender; the folly of ambition
motifs · Letters, messages, and tokens; madness; disguises; mistaken identity
symbols · Olivia’s gifts; the darkness of Malvolio’s prison; changes of clothing
foreshadowing · Little or none, as the play moves too fast.
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