Twelfth Night Synopsis
or what would be nice to know before the play begins
The story begins with a shipwreck at sea. Viola and Sebastian, identical twins, each believe that the other has drowned. For safety reasons, Viola dresses as a man (naming herself Cesario) and goes to work as a page for the Duke of Illyria who is madly in love with the Countess Olivia. The Countess, however, is mourning the recent deaths of her father and brother and will not be seen by anyone. But the Duke sends Cesario (Viola) to win the fair Olivia’s heart for him anyway. And Olivia, upon seeing Viola (who is dressed as the young man Cesario) falls in love with her (I mean, him). To add complication, Viola, in her interactions with the Duke, has fallen in love with him thus creating a perfect love triangle. Sebastian, Viola’s brother, who has not drowned, eventually shows up and a series of mistaken identities ensues. In a subplot, Sir Toby Belch, Olivia’s uncle, has encouraged Sir Andrew Aguecheek, a dim-witted knight, to try to woe Olivia. Sir Toby really only likes having Andrew around because of his money for the partying he enjoys.
Setting: the enchanted island of Illyria in the late 1970’s