Twelfth Night | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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William Shakespeare

Years Written






Perspective and Narrator

In Twelfth Night, Viola, as a rational character in an insane world, controls much of the play's point of view through expanded dialogue and direct address to the audience, causing the audience to sympathize most with her perspective. In contrast, Malvolio's dialogue and thus his point of view are limited within the play, causing the audience to enjoy jokes at his expense.

About the Title

The title Twelfth Night refers to the last night of Christmas holiday celebrations in England before the feast of the Epiphany (the Christian holy day commemorating Christ's appearance to the Magi). According to tradition, on Twelfth Night communities choose a "Lord of Misrule" to lead the activities. Various kinds of pandemonium, often involving cross-dressing, playing practical jokes, and participating in other antics to temporarily disrupt social order ensue. These activities also figure prominently in Shakespeare's play. Its alternate title, What You Will, also evokes an atmosphere of free-for-all and may have been used to suggest Twelfth Night's relationship to Shakespeare's earlier play As You Like It.


This study guide and infographic for William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night offer summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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