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wisdom of a man, but the wit of a woman which controls the ultimate destinies of the actors.

Before turning to a detailed examination of the characters in Twelfth Night, we may remark certain general characteristics in the construction of the play.

Special char

acteristics of

The whole piece is notably harmonious; the same spirit runs through it from beginning to end. There are many passages of a fine poetic beauty in it, such as Twelfth Night. Viola's "She never told her love"; the humour waxes somewhat boisterous when Sir Toby is in his cups; but the jesting is never so broad that it jars with the poetry, the poetry is never so serious that it sets us out of tune for the revelry. The most passionate passages are tinged with humour from the unconscious irony of the situation; the most extravagant scenes are free from any taint of grossness. Comedy and romance are more completely blended-the piece is, so to speak, more thoroughly on one plane all through—than in any other of the series, with the possible exception of As You Like It.

The ease with which the story runs on, the technical mastery of construction whereby fresh situations are perpetually evolved without any sense of strain, the entire freedom from patchiness, the unfailing liveliness, the manner in which the attention is riveted on the action from first to last, mark the piece as the production of a past master in the craft of playwriting. By laying the scene in Illyria, the dramatist secures a freedom in the setting of the story which would hardly have been obtainable if he had selected a more definite geographical locality. But while every part is made to fit into every other part, so that everything appears to turn out precisely as it must have happened, Shakespeare was at no pains to ensure that there should be no small slips, nothing which the adverse critic might find to make merry over if he only hunted hard enough. He does not appear to have given Twelfth Night any detailed and accurate revision. Orsino is a count or a duke at pleasure. Malvolio reads Maria's epistle, and proceeds to refer to particular letters as giving

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the authorship, although they have not occurred in it at all. Orsino says that Cesario has been in his service three months on the fourth day after Viola landed in Illyria. Shakespeare did not take the trouble to correct these inconsistencies, for the simple reason that no audience would notice them; they have no effect on the vraisemblance of a story which is avowedly a Twelfth Night extravagance, making no demand for rigid realism: just as he felt himself at perfect liberty to introduce the Fairy Court in the Midsummer Night's Dream, or Hymen in As You Like It, without any intention of implying that Hymen or Oberon are to be met in the flesh by visitors to the woods of Arden or Attica. Shakespeare would fare but ill at the hands of a conscientious critic of the school ·which maintains that art is the photographic reproduction of natural objects.

The plot of our play is as follows:

The plot.

The twin sister and brother, Viola and Sebastian, have been wrecked on a voyage. Viola is picked up by a passing vessel, and landed in Illyria. Learning that the Duke or Count is a man of good repute, and one who had been known to her father, she resolves to pass herself off as a youth, and to take service with him as a page, under the name of Cesario. Now Orsino is much in love with a lady named Olivia, who for her part will not heed his suit, being vowed to spend seven years in mourning for a brother who had recently died. Viola in her character of page rapidly rises in favour with Orsino, who after three days resolves to send her to woo Olivia on his behalf, all unconscious that the seeming page is a girl, who has already fallen desperately in love with him. The page gains access to the lady; but, while she fails to win her for the Duke, becomes herself the object of Olivia's passionate affection. Meantime Sebastian appears upon the scene. Olivia, meeting him, takes him for Viola, and straightway begs him to marry her. Sebastian, bewildered but delighted, since he has fallen in love with her at first sight, promptly agrees, and they are formally but privately betrothed without delay. Now Sebastian's (M 38)


arrival is accounted for by the fact that he had been picked up by another passing vessel. Antonio, the captain who had rescued him, had done notable service in war against Orsino, and being recognized in the town, is seized and haled before the Duke. As Olivia mistook Sebastian for Viola, so Antonio mistook Viola for Sebastian, and was captured while defending her in a brawl into which she had been forced. Naturally indignant when she declares she has never seen him before, he pours out his wrath on her in the Duke's presence. Orsino deems him mad, but when Olivia appears on the scene and claims' Cesario' for her husband, calling to witness the priest who had conducted the ceremony of betrothal, he turns upon her in a rage. The timely entrance of Sebastian leads to a full explanation; the Duke transfers his affections from Olivia to Viola, Olivia finds Sebastian an excellent substitute for Viola, and all ends happily. [This, as will be seen, is practically the same plot as that of Gl'Ingannati.]

With this is interwoven the underplot, of which the central figure is Malvolio, Olivia's steward. Olivia has an uncle, Sir Toby Belch, who, with his friend, Sir Andrew The underplot. Aguecheek, is living at free quarters in her house. Sir Andrew is in truth merely Sir Toby's butt, kept on the premises until Sir Toby shall have thoroughly fleeced him, on the pretext that he is an eminently appropriate suitor for Olivia's hand. Now, the drunken habits of the two knights are a perpetual offence to the prim steward Malvolio, whose puritanical solemnity is no less a grievance to them, and to the Jester and Maria, Olivia's waiting woman, who, moreover, intends to marry Sir Toby. These four therefore design a trap for Malvolio, inducing him to believe (as he is only too ready to do) that Olivia is in love with him. The trick is effected by means of a letter which Maria leaves in his way, in consequence of which he behaves in so fantastic a fashion that those who are not in the secret believe he has gone out of his wits. He is accordingly confined as a lunatic, but released after a brief interval, when his tormentors have confessed to their practical joke.

A lively interlude is caused by Sir Andrew's jealousy on

account of Olivia's attentions to the Duke's page, which leads to a challenge, and finally to Sebastian being assaulted by mistake for Viola, with disastrous consequences to Sir Andrew and his companions.


The heroine and central character of this play is unquestionably Viola; whom it is impossible to avoid placing in direct comparison with Rosalind. Both are emi- Characters: nently quick-witted and warm-hearted; both can face misfortune with resolution, and with a fine capacity for grasping the humorous features of the situation; each has a feminine horror of blood and bloodshed; each can assume the boy's part, while the audacity of each is coupled with an innate refinement of such force that the veriest prude could charge neither of them with a suspicion of immodesty. Each has the delicacy of feeling, the tenderness, the generosity, the tact, the loyalty, and the resourcefulness which make them irresistibly lovable. Of the two, however, Viola has much the more difficult part to play, if only because she must play it unaided, while Rosalind has Celia to give her very material assistance. Yet this is not all; for Rosalind has her own loyal lover to make love to, and knows all the time that he is in love with her: she can lavish unexpected fascinations on him as she could not have done in her true character; she has nothing to fear, and no one but herself to consider. Viola, on the other hand, loving Orsino with self-denying devotion, has to woo the affections of a rival on his behalf, with only the semi-consolation that the attempt is obviously useless. Yet even under these hard conditions her generosity never fails. She makes the attempt loyally and frankly. She shows no jealous depreciation when her rival removes the veil from her face, expressing her admiration in terms obviously sincere. She carefully shields Olivia when the latter sends Malvolio after her with the ring, as anyone less generous and less quick-witted must have failed to do. She speaks up for Antonio, even when he is railing upon her in a manner wholly unintelligible to her; and all this with the burden of a fresh and unrequited love upon her heart. Altogether, one

feels that she is very much too good for Orsino; but then it is almost a universal rule that Shakespeare's heroines are a degree too good for their mates.


Olivia is an admirable foil to Viola. Her position as a wealthy heiress has given her a certain habit of dignity which makes us fancy her somewhat older; yet if we are to suppose any actual difference in age it must be very slight; for she evidently ought not to impress us as older than Sebastian. But she has been brought up

among grandees; she is the responsible head of a household which requires skilful and dignified control to keep its members within tolerable bounds; and she has developed the stately manner which accords with her position. For all that, she is the most impulsive of the whole very impulsive group, and has something of the spoilt child about her which contrasts with the combined frankness and self-control of Viola. Her feelings are not so deep, but she is more emotional; like Orsino, she feels a distinct enjoyment in playing with grief; her melancholy is extremely self-conscious, and she is already beginning to feel aweary of it, and to crave for some new emotion when we are first introduced to her. No one can quite believe in the genuineness of her declaration that she is going to spend seven years in mourning, nor do we feel the smallest surprise when her exaggerated grief gives sudden place to exaggerated passion. Not being endowed with that sense of humour which is the natural enemy of superficial emotion, she gives her sentimentality free play, and is rather proud of it. She is evidently clever and cultivated, but she lacks Viola's readiness of fence and quick resourcefulness. She would have mated ill with Orsino, because she is so like him. Sebastian, with his energy and promptness, is well adapted to give her what she needs.


It is something of a flaw in Viola that she should care so much for Orsino, but it is common enough to find a strong character like hers becoming devoted to a weak one like his. Highly cultivated, thoroughly artistic, with sensibilities very easily touched, much of what has already been said of Olivia applies to him with at least

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