Twelfth Night

by: William Shakespeare

What Does the Ending Mean?

Summary What Does the Ending Mean?

Viola and Sebastian’s reunion resolves the various confusions and deceptions amongst the Twelfth Night characters and restores society-approved heterosexual marriages and class distinctions. This “resolution”—a return to social order—is typical of Shakespearean comedies. Much of the play’s action has been driven by characters pretending to occupy different gender or class positions, and the ending of Twelfth Night brings Viola’s identity to the forefront. When Viola is revealed to be a noble woman and not a servant boy, Orsino quickly transfers his affections from Olivia to Viola, but he continues referring to Viola as “Cesario” and “boy,” possibly revealing that he actually loves the masculine Viola. While Orsino can satisfy his homosexual attraction in a way that is socially acceptable for the time period, Antonio’s apparent love for Sebastian is left unsatisfied as Sebastian marries Olivia. Malvolio’s end is similarly unsatisfactory as he becomes enraged at having been tricked with forged love letters, and he storms off the stage, vowing to get revenge. His ending complicates what is otherwise supposed to be a joyful conclusion.