William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the incredible comedy about unrequited love, both hilarious and heartbreaking, now presented by the Folger Shakespeare Library with valuable new tools for educators and dynamic new covers.
Named for the twelfth night after Christmas, the end of the Christmas season, Twelfth Night plays with love and power. The Countess Olivia, a woman with her own household, attracts Duke Orsino. Two other would-be suitors are her pretentious steward, Malvolio, and Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
Onto this scene arrive the twins Viola and Sebastian; previously caught in a shipwreck, each thinks the other has drowned. Viola disguises herself as a male page and enters Orsino’s service. Orsino sends her as his envoy to Olivia—only to have Olivia fall in love with the messenger. The play complicates, then wonderfully untangles, these relationships.
The authoritative edition of Twelfth Night from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trusted and widely used Shakespeare series for students and general readers, includes:
-The exact text of the printed book for easy cross-reference -Hundreds of hypertext links for instant navigation -Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play -Full explanatory notes conveniently linked to the text of the play -Scene-by-scene plot summaries -A key to the play’s famous lines and phrases -An introduction to reading Shakespeare’s language -An essay by a leading Shakespeare scholar providing a modern perspective on the play -Fresh images from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s vast holdings of rare books -An annotated guide to further reading -An essay by a leading Shakespeare expert
Twelfth Night, or, What You Will Editors’ Preface In recent years, ways of dealing with Shakespeare’s texts and with the interpretation of his plays have been undergoing significant change. This edition, while retaining many of the features that have always made the Folger Shakespeare so attractive to the general reader, at the same time reflects these current ways of thinking about Shakespeare. For example, modern readers, actors, and teachers have become interested in the differences between, on the one hand, the early forms in which Shakespeare’s plays were first published and, on the other hand, the forms in which editors through the centuries have presented them. In response to this interest, we have based our edition on what we consider the best early printed version of a particular play (explaining our rationale in a section called “An Introduction to This Text”) and have marked our changes in the text—unobtrusively, we hope, but in such a way that the curious reader can be aware that a change has been made and can consult the “Textual Notes” to discover what appeared in the early printed version.
Current ways of looking at the plays are reflected in our brief introductions, in many of the commentary notes, in the annotated lists of “Further Reading,” and especially in each play’s “Modern Perspective,” an essay written by an outstanding scholar who brings to the reader his or her fresh assessment of the play in the light of today’s interests and concerns.
As in the Folger Library General Reader’s Shakespeare, which this edition replaces, we include explanatory notes designed to help make Shakespeare’s language clearer to a modern reader, and we hyperlink notes to the lines that they explain. We also follow the earlier edition in including illustrations—of objects, of clothing, of mythological figures—from books and manuscripts in the Folger Library collection. We provide fresh accounts of the life of Shakespeare, of the publishing of his plays, and of the theaters in which his plays were performed, as well as an introduction to the text itself. We also include a section called “Reading Shakespeare’s Language,” in which we try to help readers learn to “break the code” of Elizabethan poetic language.
For each section of each volume, we are indebted to a host of generous experts and fellow scholars. The “Reading Shakespeare’s Language” sections, for example, could not have been written had not Arthur King, of Brigham Young University, and Randal Robinson, author of Unlocking Shakespeare’s Language, led the way in untangling Shakespearean language puzzles and shared their insights and methodologies generously with us. “Shakespeare’s Life” profited by the careful reading given it by S. Schoenbaum, “Shakespeare’s Theater” was read and strengthened by Andrew Gurr and John Astington, and “The Publication of Shakespeare’s Plays” is indebted to the comments of Peter W. M. Blayney. We, as editors, take sole responsibility for any errors in our editions.
We are grateful to the authors of the “Modern Perspectives,” to Leeds Barroll and David Bevington for their generous encouragement, to the Huntington and Newberry Libraries for fellowship support, to King’s College for the grants it has provided to Paul Werstine, to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, which provided him with a Research Time Stipend for 1990–91, and to the Folger Institute’s Center for Shakespeare Studies for its fortuitous sponsorship of a workshop on “Shakespeare’s Texts for Students and Teachers” (funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and led by Richard Knowles of the University of Wisconsin), a workshop from which we learned an enormous amount about what is wanted by college and high-school teachers of Shakespeare today.
Our biggest debt is to the Folger Shakespeare Library: to Michael Witmore, Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, who brings to our work a gratifying enthusiasm and vision; to Gail Kern Paster, Director of the Library from 2002 until July 2011, whose interest and support have been unfailing and whose scholarly expertise continues to be an invaluable resource; and to Werner Gundersheimer, the Library’s Director from 1984 to 2002, who made possible our edition; to Jean Miller, the Library’s Art Curator, who combed the Library holdings for illustrations, and to Julie Ainsworth, Head of the Photography Department, who carefully photographed them; to Georgianna Ziegler, Reference Librarian, whose research skills have been invaluable; to Peggy O’Brien, Director of Education, who gave us expert advice about the needs being expressed by Shakespeare teachers and students (and to Martha Christian and other “master teachers” who used our texts in manuscript in their classrooms); to the staff of the Academic Programs Division, especially Paul Menzer (who drafted “Further Reading” material), Mary Tonkinson, Lena Cowen Orlin, Molly Haws, Amy Adler, and Jessica Hymowitz; to Rachel Duchak, who helped us find the “new map;” and, finally, to the staff of the Library Reading Room, whose patience and support have been invaluable.
William Shakespeare was born in April 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, on England’s Avon River. When he was eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway. The couple had three children—an older daughter Susanna and twins, Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet, Shakespeare’s only son, died in childhood. The bulk of Shakespeare’s working life was spent in the theater world of London, where he established himself professionally by the early 1590s. He enjoyed success not only as a playwright and poet, but also as an actor and shareholder in an acting company. Although some think that sometime between 1610 and 1613 Shakespeare retired from the theater and returned home to Stratford, where he died in 1616, others believe that he may have continued to work in London until close to his death.