Twelfth Night Synopsis

Viola and her twin brother Sebastian are so alike that people cannot tell them apart. On a sea journey they are shipwrecked off the coast of Illyria. They are both rescued but fear the other has drowned. Viola, with the help of the sea captain who rescued her, decides to find employment with the Duke Orsino. She disguises herself as a boy, renaming herself Cesario. After a few days in his service she finds that she is in love with Orsino, but he is infatuated with the Countess Olivia. Olivia is in mourning for her dead brother and is not interested in Orsino’s affections. Orsino sends Viola to Olivia to plead with her on his behalf. Olivia refuses to consider Orsino’s proposal but finds herself deeply attracted to Viola (Cesario). Olivia’s steward, Malvolio annoys the other members of the household by his arrogant self-righteousness.

Sir Toby Belch, one of Olivia’s kinsmen, has befriended a foolish knight, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and has persuaded him that Olivia will eventually agree to marry him. Sir Toby spends a great deal of Sir Andrew’s money drinking and feasting with him and Malvolio shows his disapproval. Maria, Olivia’s gentlewoman, and a close friend of Sir Toby, plans to trick Malvolio into believing that Olivia is in love with him.

In the meantime Sebastian, Viola’s twin brother, has arrived in the city with his friend Antonio who rescued him from the sea. Antonio had previously fought against Orsino and does not want to be seen by Orsino’s men and so they decide to separate.


Sir Andrew sees how affectionate Olivia is towards Viola (Cesario) and plans to leave, but Sir Toby persuades him to fight a duel with Cesario, because he thinks it would be amusing. He persuades each of them that the other is a superb swordsman. They are both terrified.  Antonio comes upon Sir Andrew and Cesario duelling and  goes to help, thinking it is Sebastian. Antonio is understandably upset when Cesario appears not to know him and refuses to give him back the money that he lent him earlier.

Before any explanations can be given Antonio is arrested for his old crime. Malvolio, believing Olivia to be in love with him, makes an idiot of himself and Olivia asks Sir Toby to look after him, believing that he is unwell. Sir Toby out of spite has him locked up in a dark cell and the clown, Feste, teases him unmercifully.

While Sebastian wanders round the city he meets Sir Andrew and Sir Toby who think he is Cesario. Sir Andrew continues the quarrel, but Sir Toby intervenes when he sees that Sebastian is ready for a real fight. Olivia stops the duel and, thinking it is Cesario, she repeats her love for him. Sebastian is confused, but as she is very beautiful he agrees to marry her.

Eventually Viola and Sebastian are reunited and all the problems arising from mistaken identity are solved. Malvolio is released from prison, Sir Toby marries Maria and Orsino realises that he loves Viola.

Home     Productions     Casting     About us     Friends     Patrons     Location     Contact us
Polesden Lacey Shakespeare Limited, Registered Number 7512952 Registered Charity Number 1142776 Registered Office: 16 Dorking Road, Great Bookham, Leatherhead, Surrey KT23 4LX