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Plot in Twelfth Night

Plot Examples in Twelfth Night:

Act I - Scene IV

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"Yet, a barful strife! Whoe'er I woo, myself would be his wife...."   (Act I - Scene IV)

Viola’s sudden confession of love could be a rhetorical device that shows the audience how Viola’s emotions have developed over the time that has passed. The suddenness of this reaction could also show that Viola immediately falls in love with Orsino when he describes her as beautiful.

"If the Duke continue these favours towards you, Cesario, you are like to be much advanced:..."   (Act I - Scene IV)

Notice that Shakespeare uses these first lines to show that time has passed: Viola has successfully endeared herself to the duke as Cesario, a young eunuch. These lines reveal that Cesario has not only begun working for Orsino but has become a trusted confidant.

"Unless, perchance, you come to me again,..."   (Act I - Scene V)

Notice that Olivia seems to fall in love with Cesario after he describes her using poetic metaphors, just as Viola fell in love with Orsino after he used a poetic blazon to describe her. Both instances of love underscore the theme of writing and poetry in this play.

"Alas, I took great pains to study it, and 'tis poetical...."   (Act I - Scene V)

Viola frames Orsino’s message as poetical and complex: she had to put in great effort into studying and learning about his love for Olivia. Olivia seems impressed by this either because of the labor Viola put into this pursuit or because of the power of poetic words.

"But, come what may, I do adore thee so, That danger shall seem sport, and I will go...."   (Act II - Scene I)

By this, Antonio means that he is willing to put himself in danger so that he can follow Sebastian. This claim suggests an undeveloped backstory in which Antonio does something illegal in Illyria and makes “enemies” in Orsino’s court.

"both born in an hour:..."   (Act II - Scene I)

By this phrase, Sebastian means that he and Viola are twins. Notice that Shakespeare waits until Act II, scene i to explain Viola’s backstory. This delay in identification could add to the mystery of the character and build the audience's intrigue just as Cesario’s vague answers build Olivia’s interest in him.

"sooner lost and worn, Than women's are...."   (Act II - Scene IV)

Orsino is saying that men are more fickle than women. He claims that a man should take a young wife so that he dies before he grows bored of her. This line of reasoning seems contrary to his description of his own love as an undying burning passion.

"Of your complexion...."   (Act II - Scene IV)

Here, Viola means that she is in love with Orsino. He assumes that she is talking about a woman, but she is actually confessing her love for him. Notice that Orsino does not notice that his “servant” is in love with him. One could compare this blindness to Sebastian’s ignorance of Antonio’s love at the beginning of Act II.

"Why, thou hast put him in such a dream..."   (Act II - Scene V)

Remember that Viola claimed Olivia “had better loved a dream” when she realized that the poor woman was in love with her. Malvolio too seems lost in a dream, but unlike Olivia there are consequences to his unrealistic love. While Malvolio’s love of his superior will cause his downfall, there will be no consequences for Olivia’s misplaced love because she is an aristocrat.

"two thousand strong..."   (Act III - Scene II)

By this, Sir Toby means that he has gotten a lot of money out of Sir Andrew. This line tells the audience why Toby and Andrew convince Sir Andrew to fight Cesario: they want him to stay in Illyria so they can continue using his money.

"manakin..."   (Act III - Scene II)

By “manakin” Fabian means a dear puppet. After Sir Andrew has left the stage Toby and Fabian make it very clear that they are using Andrew for his money.

"She did show favour to the youth in your sight only to(15) exasperate you,..."   (Act III - Scene II)

Fabian wrongly interprets Olivia’s actions in order to convince Sir Andrew to remain in Illyria. Toby and Andrew have been using Sir Andrew’s money to drink, so they trick him into continuing to fight for Olivia in order to keep using his money.

"'gainst the Count his galleys..."   (Act III - Scene III)

This means “against the Count’s ships.” This could suggest that Antonio was involved in piracy in which he robbed some of the Count’s ships and is now wanted in Illyria.

"If this young gentleman Have done offence,..."   (Act III - Scene IV)

Remember that Viola and Sebastian are twins. Antonio enters the scene and believes that Viola is Sebastian. He steps into the fight on Sebastian’s behalf because he swore to protect him.

"he is sad and civil,(5) And suits well for a servant with my fortunes:..."   (Act III - Scene IV)

After fearing that Maria has overheard her, Olivia says that she needs Malvolio, a servant who will be sad and civil. Remember that Olivia has vowed to mourn for her brother for seven years. She wants Malvolio because she believes his demeanor will restore her somber persona.

"What relish is in this?..."   (Act IV - Scene I)

This is a saying that meant “what is the meaning of this?” Sebastian is confused by Olivia’s familiarity with him because he does not know that his sister has been posing as a man

"I cannot pursue with any safety this sport to the upshot...."   (Act IV - Scene II)

“Upshot” is the final shot that decides an archery match. Sir Toby argues that this should be their final prank because Olivia is so angry with him. He cannot carry this practical joke on Malvolio to its conclusion because it might get him in further trouble.

"That they may fairly note this act of mine!..."   (Act IV - Scene III)

Notice that Olivia’s performance of marriage must be witnessed in order to be valid. She notes that the heavens are watching because it is an otherwise secret marriage.

"You are betroth'd both to a maid and man...."   (Act V - Scene I)

“Maid and a man” means that the man is a virgin. However, this line takes on a double meaning because of the disguises and mistaken identity within this play. Because Olivia first fell in love with Viola and the twins are so similar, she is essentially betrothed to both siblings.

"serviceable..."   (Act V - Scene I)

“Serviceable” means “to be of use.” Here, Olivia asks Orsino what he wants other than her love that she could help him with. Notice that Olivia will grant Orsino audience now that she is no longer available to be married.

"Give me thy hand; And let me see thee in thy woman's weeds...."   (Act V - Scene I)

Orsino immediately transfers his love from Olivia, who he has been doggedly pursuing for most of the play, to a woman he believed to be a male eunuch until moments ago. Thus the complicated love triangle has been untangled, and all parties involved are (presumably) happily paired off.

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