Actors dressed as sailors move in the background whilst two actors in the foreground embrace one another with sad looks on their faces

TWELFTH NIGHT.

Everything you need to know about William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night – synopsis, characters, quotes, previous productions and more

Probably written between XXXX and XXXX, Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. It is set XXXXX. The play is a SSSS and explores themes of XXXXX.

This page includes everything you need to know about the play – if you’re looking to browse and buy tickets to current productions, head over to What’s On.

Pictured above: Twelfth Night in 2017, directed by Emma Rice, photography by Hugo Glendinning.

SYNOPSIS

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Two actors lean in towards each other, one's hand raised towards the other's face

Johnny Flynn as Viola/Cesario and Liam Brennan as Orsino in our 2012 Twelfth Night. Photographer: Simon Annand

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WRITING THE PLAY

A group of actors sing with scaffolding and hills in the background indicating they are performing outside

Twelfth Night in 2019 – the Globe Ensemble perform on tour at Chilham Castle in Kent. Photographer: Marc Brenner

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CHARACTERS

Viola
Sebastian’s twin sister, disguises as Cesario

Orsino
The Duke of Illyria, in love with Olivia

Olivia
An Illyrian countess

Sebastian
Viola’s twin brother

Malvolio
Olivia’s steward / servant

Feste
Olivia’s clown / jester

Sir Toby
Olivia’s uncle

Maria
Olivia’s maid

Sir Andrew Aguecheek
Knight and Sir Toby’s friend

Antonio
Sea captain and Sebastian’s rescuer

Fabian
Olivia’s servant

Valentine
Duke Orsino’s attendant

Curio
Duke Orsino’s attendant

Sea Captain

KEY QUOTES

If music be the food of love, play on

– Orsino, Act I, scene 1

 

What country, friends, is this?

– Viola, Act I, scene 2

 

I have unclaspd
To thee the book even of my secret soul

– Orsino, Act I, scene 4

 

Better a witty fool than a foolish wit

– Feste, Act I, scene 5

 

Disguise, I see thou art a wickedness

– Viola, Act II, scene 2

 

Dost thou think that because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?

– Sir Toby Belch, Act II, scene 3

 

Journeys end in lovers meeting

– Feste, Act II, scene 3

 

My father had a daughter loved a man
As it might be, perhaps, were I a woman
I should your lordship

– Viola, Act II, scene 4

 

Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em

– Malvolio, Act II, scene 5

 

Cesario, by the roses of the spring,
By maidhood, honor, truth, and everything,
I love thee so, that, maugre all thy pride,
Nor wit nor reason can my passion hide.
Do not extort thy reasons from this clause,
For that I woo, thou therefore hast no cause,
But rather reason thus with reason fetter.
Love sought is good, but given unsought better

– Olivia, Act III, scene 2

 

If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction

– Fabian, Act III, scene 4

 

I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you

– Malvolio, Act V, scene 1

 

I’ll sacrifice the lamb that I do love,
To spite a raven’s heart within a dove

– Orsino, Act V, scene 1

 

One face, one voice, one habit, and two persons,
A natural perspective, that is and is not!

– Orsino, Act V, scene 1

 

Cesario, come;
For so you shall be, while you are a man;
But when in other habits you are seen,
Orsino’s mistress and his fancy’s queen

– Orsino, Act V, scene 1

WATCH

GLOBE PLAYER

There are two different videos of past productions of Twelfth Night (2012 and 2017).

These, plus many other plays, are available to rent or buy via Globe Player – they all took place originally in the Globe Theatre.

YOUTUBE

Look back at past trailers, actor interviews, rehearsal room videos and more.

Our Twelfth Night playlist on YouTube includes every video we’ve ever published for previous productions.

BLOGS & PODCASTS

Twelfth Night 2012 What you will Blogs and Features card
Plays, Poems & New Writing 

What you will: gender fluidity in Twelfth Night

Read
Claire Van Kampen and the musicicans of Shakespeare's Globe
Globe Theatre 

Music at Shakespeare's Globe: Experimenting with Original Practices

Read
Make up Mark Rylance Twelfth Night Shakespeare's Globe
Globe Theatre 

Original Practices at Shakespeare's Globe

Read

TEACHING RESOURCES

We have a few different databases of free downloads for teachers and students – we’ve collated some top links below.

A black, grey and pink graphic shows the close up of a face, a shipwrecked boat and the words ‘Twelfth Night’

PLAYING SHAKESPEARE

Teachers can still access our microsite from our 2016 Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank production of Twelfth Night. Navigate Shakespeare’s language, listen to audio interviews, learn about the characters, download free teaching resources and more.

A backstage view of the Globe Theatre where a member of staff helps an actor get in to their Elizabethan dress

TEACH SHAKESPEARE

There are a wealth of resources available on our Teach Shakespeare website, including video resources and pages about Shakespeare’s Globe’s Original Practices – interviews, reading and general information about our productions in 2002 and 2012.

PAST PRODUCTIONS

Between 2002 and 2021, there have been many different productions of Twelfth Night created by Shakespeare’s Globe.

Some of them were performed here at the Globe Theatre whilst others toured other venues across the world.

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