Twelfth Night 

The play refers to The Sophy – a ship that returned from Persia in 1599 – and a new map ‘with the augmentation of the Indies’ also published in 1599, and reissued in 1600. A diary entry by John Manningham notes a performance at Middle Temple Hall on 2nd February 1602. Probably written around 1601.

First appears in the First Folio. It was probably prepared for print from the acting company’s prompt-book, or a copy. The typesetting of the play was apparently interrupted by the manuscript being temporarily unavailable.

Twelfth Night

‘And some have greatness thrust upon

Twelfth Night, III iv

Brief synopsis of the play

Viola, shipwrecked, disguises herself as a man (‘Cesario’). She is hired by Count Orsino to woo the heiress Olivia, who instead becomes attracted to ‘Cesario’. Olivia’s servants and hangers-on plot against her pompous steward Malvolio, cruelly using his love for Olivia to bring him down. Confusion is multiplied by the appearance of Viola’s twin brother Sebastian, in a comedy that mixes broad farce, human insight and melancholic song.