'Twelfth Night' In 7 Minutes! | 'Twelfth Night' by William Shakespeare English GCSE Revision Summary (2023)


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Studying 'Twelfth Night' by William Shakespeare? Check out our quick revision summary!


Now, let's begin by discussing broadly the key events that happen in the 12th night, so, as you can see behind me, essentially I've created a mind map explaining the main major events that happen in the play that you should be aware of.

Now, let's go through it, so the play begins with us.

Learning about two twins, viola and sebastian.

Survivor is a girl and sebastian is a boy.

They are separated in a shipwreck and viola seems to be the only survivor, and she believes that her brother, her twin brother, has been killed in the shipwreck, so viola believing that sebastian's dead.

She because she realizes that she's completely alone in the world.

We also learned that her father has died so she's, basically an orphan.

She believes that she's alone in the world and as a woman, it will be very difficult for her to navigate this new complicated environment.

So she decides to disguise herself as a man to disguise herself as a man and also to rename himself as cesario once she disguises herself as a man and uh becomes a man called cesario.

She seeks employment at the duke's place, so bear in mind.

The setting is illeria and the duke of illyria is duke orsino, so she decides to work for ducalcino.

However, while she's working for him, they have a real, close connection, a bond and she falls in love with duke orsino.

However, she can't do anything about it.

She's, a man she is of a totally uh, lower class and duke orcina working as one of his quarters and seven.

So she really can't do anything about it and she believes that this love will be unrequited now, duke orsino quickly starts trusting cesario.

So, of course, this is viola that he trusts and we learn that duke orsino is in love with another lady another lady who's, part of the nobility in illyria called olivia he's in love with her and he's tried to woo her and get her to marry him.

However, she has rejected him and the main reason for her rejecting him is because her brother has died and she's decided that she's going to reject all male suiters for seven years.

Okay, so duke orsino believes that maybe cesario will be able to somehow navigate this and try to convince olivia to marry him and to, of course, return his love for him.

Okay, now uh osino therefore sends viola, of course, as cesario.

He sends viola to try to win over olivia.

However, of course, this ties into the element of comedy once olivia meets cesario and just feels like this instant connection with him.

She falls in love with cesario, and she completely forgets this vowel that she made that she will have no male suitors as she's mourning for her brother.

So actually she switches from being.

You know very uh auntie talking to anybody who is connected to do casino, to actually wanting cesario to propose to her and to marry her, so she falls in love with cesario unbeknownst to her.

Of course, she doesn't know that she's talking to viola who's, a woman, okay and, of course viola- is stuck between a rock and a hard place, because she doesn't want to reject outwardly olivia and make her upset and angry, but at the same time she needs olivia to accept duke orsino's hand in marriage.

Okay, then we learn about olivia stewart and, of course, within the royal household in olivia's own household there's also a lot of politics amongst the servants.

Okay, so olivia has a lady in waiting called maria who's.

One of her servants a very close servant, and she also has another steward called malvolio.

Now we learn malvelio is very pompous.

He thinks he's better than other servants and maria really hates him, so she decides to play trick on him.

There's also sir toby belch, who is olivia's drunken uncle and he's trying to hook olivia up with sir andrew and, of course, olivia totally refuses.

However, maria decides to play a trick on malvolio, okay and uh maria, along with sir toby he's on the trick as well as sir andrew.

They decided to trick him into thinking that olivia loves him now.

Malvolio is convinced not only uh, that olivia loves him, but he's also convinced to dress up in a certain way, as he reads a letter which, basically, he believes is from olivia.

It's maria, that's written it.

He reads this letter.

It tells them to dress in a very flamboyant way, because olivia according to the letter, will like it, but also, of course, this is his way of trying to woo her and seduce him.

Of course, malvolio is really happy that olivia loves him, because if he were to marry her, his social status would go up.

So he does this and whilst he's doing this, olivia is totally unaware.

So she sees melvilia acting in what she sees as very bizarre he's wearing things that she hates, which is just very garish, clothing and olivia, decides that he has gone mad, and this is used as a pretext in order for maria sir toby and sir andrew, who all hate mel radio to have him imprisoned and to be accused of madness.

Okay, then sebastian, who was ultimately rescued, so he didn't die in the shipwreck.

Initially, he was rescued by another man called antonio, who really dedicated himself and helped him get to illyria sebastian arrives to illyrio of antonio.

Now we realize that antonio is actually an enemy of due course know.

However, antonio is very, very loyal to his friend sebastian who's viola's twin once he arrives in illyria, he's a wanted man and he is arrested and taken away.

Okay and, of course, sebastian once he arrives in illyria olivia encounters him now.

Sebastian looks exactly like the male version of viola.


So when olivia encounters him, she is really happy because she believes it's cesario.

Sebastian is a bit confused.

He doesn't understand why this royal woman is in love with him.

However, he goes along with it and olivia says: let's get married and they get married.

Okay and of course, that's what adds all the more to the humor sebastian marry, someone who literally doesn't know, but olivia is also really happy because she's now married cesario or who she believes to be cesario.

Now this gets back to duke orsino who hears that cesario.

His servant has married olivia and he is furious at first.

However, viola and sebastian ultimately end up meeting and it's then ultimately revealed that viola had took on this elaborate disguise.

Cesario is viola, but also sebastian hasn't betrayed duke orsino, because he had he's not the same person that was working for duke orsino.

We also realized that you casino was slowly falling in love with cesario and viola, and he feels relieved that he wasn't falling in love with the man he actually was falling in love with the woman.

So do casino and viola who's.

Now her her true identity is shown, they marry sebastian and olivia mary and also separately, maria and sotobi uh also marry, but sadly for antonia and malvolu things don't end that well, marvolio is still left in terms of believing that he's mad, but equally also antonio, is still imprisoned.


So this is an interesting but fairly complex play, as I've mentioned before this play is very short, so it's it seems deceptively easy and straightforward to understand.

However, there's lots of disguise using display.

There's lots of humor, but also there are a lot of underlying messages relating to gender relating to class that we're going to unpack and discuss in a bit more depth.

But that's really it when it comes to understanding the plot of the play twelfth night.

In a nutshell- and hopefully you found this summary useful foreign.


What is the brief summary of the twelfth night? ›

A love triangle

Orsino is in love with Olivia, but she's mourning for her dead brother, so has rejected all his advances so far. He sends Cesario (who is really Viola) with love letters to woo Olivia on his behalf. Unfortunately for the Duke, Olivia is taken in by Cesario's disguise and falls in love with him.

What is the main message of Twelfth Night? ›

Love is the central theme of Twelfth Night and many different aspects of love are explored throughout the play. Look at the key scenes section to explore different aspects of love in some of those moments in the play, and how it is spoken about.

What happens in Act 1 Scene 3 Twelfth Night short summary? ›

Synopsis: At the estate of Lady Olivia, Sir Toby Belch, Olivia's kinsman, has brought in Sir Andrew Aguecheek to be her suitor. Maria, Olivia's lady-in-waiting, says that Andrew is a fool, and Andrew himself doubts his ability to win Olivia, but Toby encourages him to woo her.

What is the short summary of Act 2 Scene 1 in Twelfth Night? ›

Act 2, scene 1 A young gentleman named Sebastian, who has recently been saved from a shipwreck in which his sister has been lost, sets off for Orsino's court. Antonio, the sailor who saved him, follows him, even though Antonio risks his own life to do so.

Why does Orsino marry Viola? ›

Orsino marries Viola after she reveals her true identity to him. Orsino comes to the realization that it is Viola, not Olivia, he truly loves.

What is the main plot and subplot in the twelfth night? ›

The main plot follows the love triangle of Olivia, Orsino, and Viola, while the subplot follows the hilarious Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Maria in addition to their misadventures with Malvolio, Sebastian, and eventually the love triangle of the main plot.

What is ironic about Twelfth Night? ›

The play employs dramatic irony in its main plot: Orsino is in love with Olivia, who is in love with the man Orsino sent to woo Olivia on his behalf. However, this man is actually a woman named Viola, who loves Orsino.

Why is Act 1 Scene 5 important in Twelfth Night? ›

Viola confides to the audience that she loves Orsino herself. Act 1, scene 5 Viola, in her disguise as Cesario, appears at Olivia's estate. Olivia allows Cesario to speak with her privately about Orsino's love. As Cesario presents Orsino's love-suit, Olivia falls in love with Cesario.

What is the significance of Act 1 Scene 5 in Twelfth Night? ›

Twelfth Night Act 1 Scene 5: Analysis

As Viola works in disguise, she becomes close to Duke Orsino and reveals at the end of Scene 4 that she has feelings for him. Scene 5 brings even more complications when Olivia begins to develop feelings for Cesario after he visits her to convince her to marry the Duke.

What happened in Act 1 Scene 4 of the Twelfth Night? ›

Synopsis: At Orsino's court, Viola, disguised as a page and calling herself Cesario, has gained the trust of Orsino, who decides to send her to woo Olivia for him. Viola confides to the audience that she loves Orsino herself.

Why is Act 4 Scene 3 important in Twelfth Night? ›

Twelfth Night IV, iii is a brief but pivotal scene. In it, the confusion resulting from the identical twins Sebastian and Viola being simultaneously out and about in the streets of Illyria has its most dramatic result: the lovesick Countess Olivia proposes marriage to Sebastian.

What is the short summary of Act 2 Scene 3 Twelfth Night? ›

Act 2, scene 3 At Olivia's estate, Toby, Andrew, and the Fool hold a late night party. Maria comes in to quiet them, followed by Malvolio, who orders them to behave or be dismissed from the house. In retaliation, Maria plots to trap Malvolio with a forged letter that will persuade him that Olivia loves him.

What happens in Act 3 of Twelfth Night? ›

What happens in Act 3 of Twelfth Night? Olivia professes love to Cesario (Viola). Cesario (Viola) and Andrew are goaded into a duel. Olivia becomes worried about Malvolio's mental health, even though Malvolio is merely acting in a way that he thinks she wants him to act.

Does Duke Orsino fall in love with Viola? ›

Duke Orsino is a man with high romantic imagination and is a melancholy lover. He finds himself becoming more and more fond of his new page boy, Cesario (Viola in disguise), the daughter of a nobleman who knew Duke Orsino. Viola falls in love with Orsino, despite continuing to plead his case to Olivia.

Does Viola confess her love for Orsino? ›

Viola confesses her love for Orsino via imaginary triangulations with this woman who might possibly love him, and through her sister who loved but never articulated it. Viola suggests that, if she were a woman, she might love Orsino as her sister (or, with even more circumlocution, her father's daughter) loved a man.

Does Orsino truly love Olivia? ›

Character Analysis of Duke Orsino: Unseeing

The Duke persists in his pursuit of Olivia, using Cesario, his page, despite Olivia's continuing rejection of him. The Duke, however, is not so much in love with Olivia as he is in love with love.

Who is the main antagonist in Twelfth Night? ›

Malvolio is the main antagonist of the early 1600s play Twelfth Night, written by William Shakespeare. He is the vain, pompous and arrogant servant of the Countess Olivia, who he is infatued with.

What is the climax of Twelfth Night? ›

The climax of Twelfth Night occurs when Viola and Sebastian reunite and their true identities become known to everyone. Their reunion sets up the conclusion (or denouement), in which preparations are made for the marriage of Viola to Orsino and Sebastian to Olivia.

What happens at the end of Twelfth Night summary? ›

The play ends as Orsino approves the union between Olivia and Sebastian. Realising his own attraction to 'Cesario', Orsino promises that once Viola is dressed as a woman again, they will be married as well.

What is the most famous line in Twelfth Night? ›

Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon 'em.

Is Twelfth Night a comedy or tragedy? ›

Twelfth Night, or What You Will is a romantic comedy by William Shakespeare that is believed to have been written around 1601–1602 as a Twelfth Night entertainment for the close of the Christmas season.

Who does Sebastian love in Twelfth Night? ›

However, he isn't so overcome as to not fall in love with Olivia! Despite only knowing her for a short time, he agrees to marry her, and seems to be in love with her at the end of the play.

Why is Act 3 Scene 3 important in Twelfth Night? ›

Act 3, scene 3 Antonio, having followed Sebastian, explains the incident in his past that keeps him from safely venturing into the streets of Orsino's city.

What is the importance of Act 2 Scene 2 in Twelfth Night? ›

Act 2, scene 2 Malvolio finds the disguised Viola and “returns” the ring. Viola, alone, realizes that Olivia has fallen in love with Cesario and understands that Orsino, Olivia, and Viola/Cesario are now in a love triangle that she is helpless to resolve.

What is the meaning of Act 2 Scene 4 in Twelfth Night? ›

In conversation about the capacities for love in men and in women, Viola expresses her love for Orsino through a story about “Cesario's sister.” Orsino becomes curious about this sister's fate, but then turns back to his own longings and sends Cesario once again to visit Olivia.

Why is Act 3 Scene 5 important? ›

Lord Capulet argues with Juliet

Juliet refuses to marry and her father threatens to disown her. Juliet begs her mother to help her but she refuses and leaves Juliet with the the Nurse, who also tries to convince her to marry Paris. You can take a look at the whole scene and watch it in performance here.

What happens at the end of Act 3 Scene 4 Twelfth Night? ›

Antonio is immediately arrested by Orsino's officers. Since he is sure that Viola is Sebastian, Antonio is bitter about the apparent denial of their friendship. Viola is herself delighted by Antonio's angry words because, since he called her Sebastian, there is hope that her brother may in fact be alive.

What is the dramatic irony in Act 1 Scene 4 of Twelfth Night? ›

Part of the comic situation here involves the dramatic irony that Viola (in disguise) is forced to try to win Olivia for Duke Orsino when in reality, she would like to shed her disguise and be his wife herself.

What happens in Act 2 Scene 4 of sparknotes Twelfth Night? ›

Summary: Act II, scene iv

The next day, at Orsino's house, Orsino discusses love with his young page, Cesario (still Viola in disguise). Orsino tells Cesario that he can tell by looking at him that Cesario is in love. Since Viola is really in love with Orsino, Cesario admits that Orsino is right.

What is the lesson of Twelfth Night Act 2 Scene 5? ›

Themes: Ability to Recognize One's Own Folly: Once again, we see a character taking himself far too seriously in this scene. Malvolio can't get enough of his own shadow, and when he wanders into the garden (and right into Maria's trap), his own self-important musings blind him to the joke being played on him.

What is a short summary of Twelfth Night Act 2 Scene 5? ›

Synopsis: Maria lays her trap for Malvolio by placing her forged letter in his path. From their hiding place, Toby, Andrew, and Fabian observe Malvolio's delight in discovering the love letter. Malvolio promises to obey the letter: to smile, to put on yellow stockings cross-gartered, and to be haughty to Sir Toby.

Where does Act 3 Scene 2 take place in Twelfth Night? ›

Summary: Act III, scene ii

Back in Olivia's house, Sir Andrew tells Sir Toby that he has decided to leave. He says that he has seen Olivia fawning over Cesario in the orchard, and he seems to realize at last that Olivia is not likely to marry him.

What is an example of a paradox in Act 3 Scene 1 of Twelfth Night? ›

What is an example of a paradox in Act 3 Scene 1 of Twelfth Night? Cesario is actually Viola. Cesario feels sorry for Olivia. Viola says the fool must actually be very intelligent.

Why is it called Twelfth Night? ›

Turns out, Twelfth Night was the festival at which the play would be premiered for Queen Elizabeth I, opens a new window in 1601, and thus, when good old Will couldn't come up with a better title, that's what it became.

What is the climax of the twelfth night? ›

The climax of Twelfth Night occurs when Viola and Sebastian reunite and their true identities become known to everyone. Their reunion sets up the conclusion (or denouement), in which preparations are made for the marriage of Viola to Orsino and Sebastian to Olivia.

Why was Twelfth Night banned? ›

Twelfth Night was banned by schools in New Hampshire for “encouraging homosexuality.” Apparently the school in question has a policy of prohibiting “alternative lifestyle instruction” and Shakespeare's depiction of a woman dressed as a boy was much too racy for school officials.

Is Twelfth Night LGBTQ? ›

Twelfth Night, with its homosexual overtones and its depiction of a character presenting as an alternate gender, is a particularly rich case in point.

What happens in the end of Twelfth Night? ›

The play ends as Orsino approves the union between Olivia and Sebastian. Realising his own attraction to 'Cesario', Orsino promises that once Viola is dressed as a woman again, they will be married as well.

What is the gender issue in Twelfth Night? ›

In Twelfth Night, Viola dresses as the male Cesario in order to gain entry into Orsino's court. In Elizabethan England, women were not allowed to act professionally, and female parts were all performed by men, so Viola would have actually been played by a male actor, dressing as a woman dressing as a man.

Is Twelfth Night a tragedy or comedy? ›

Twelfth Night, or What You Will is a romantic comedy by William Shakespeare that is believed to have been written around 1601–1602 as a Twelfth Night entertainment for the close of the Christmas season.

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