The twelfth night summary indulges in this Elizabethan comedy of events revolving around deceit, gender disguise, separated twins, mistaken identity and unrequited love. Most characters in the twelfth night also called “or what you will’ are defined by the representations of their dual personalities. The play is full of several literary devices namely dramatic irony which enhances the comical effect.
The Twelfth Night Summary Act I
A rich noblewoman, the countess Olivia decides to mourn for seven years over the recent death of her brother. This doesn’t bode well for Orsino the reigning duke of Illyria who is trying to woo her. The opening scene begins with one of Shakespeare most famous metaphoric quotes widely used in drama today, “If music be the food of love, play on!” (act i,i)
Meanwhile we learn that a shipwreck has separated Viola from her twin brother Sebastian. She finds herself in Illyria and upon realizing that she cannot serve Olivia she disguises herself as a boy and serves Orsino instead.
The first act introduces the audience to the comical element in the play consisting of sir Toby Belch Olivia’s cousin, a drunkard and his eccentric friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek whom Toby constantly manipulates to pursue Olivia’s so that he can get a hand on Aguecheek’s wealth.
Viola disguised as Cesario gains favor with the duke Orsino and soon becomes his favourite companion. Orsino instructs Cesario (Viola) to woo the lady Olivia on his behalf. Viola now totally in love with Orsino reluctantly carries out his instructions to represent him at Olivia’s residence.
While Olivia is pleased at her jester for insinuating that her brother is now in heaven, her steward Malvolio who is an arrogant, self indulgent and narcissistic man scolds rebukes him. It is Olivia who describes his nature with an alliteration saying “O your are sick of self love Malvolio and taste with a distemper’d appetite” (act i, v)
Cesario (Viola) seeks an audience with Olivia who finds herself attracted to Him. She explains why she can’t return Orsino’s affections but cleverly asks cesario to return again as she wanted to know the Duke’s reaction to her refusal. When Cesario leaves, she sends Malvolio after him on the pretext of returning a ring to him as a sign of her love.