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MonkeyNotes-Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
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PLOT STRUCTURE

"Twelfth Night" is one of Shakespeare most perfect comedies. It is a perfect blend of romance and comedy. Although the play has a main plot and a subplot, the structure of the play has been skillfully handled in order to give importance to both.

Act I serves as the exposition as it introduces most of the characters of the main plot. Viola's disguise as Cesario also initiates the love triangle, for Viola falls in love with the Duke at first sight, while the Duke is in love with Olivia. Olivia is initially attracted to, then eventually falls in love with Cesario/Viola. Act II presents the rapid rising action of the main plot with Sebastian Viola's twin brother traveling to Duke Orsino's court. The audience now waits for the complications that will arise because Viola and Sebastian look alike. Olivia declares her love for Cesario/Viola indirectly through a ring sent to her. The action is also focused on the subplot. Sin Toby Belch, Maria, and the other minor characters are determined to teach the conceited Malvolio a lesson. This is the introduction to the subplot, which rapidly rises as Malvolio reads the letter and is willing to follow the instructions of the letter.

Olivia, now passionately in love with Cesario/Viola is willing to tell Cesario/Viola about it. The opportunity arises when Viola visits her again on behalf of the Duke. Olivia's open declaration of love for Cesario/Viola marks the climax of the plot. Following the declaration, matters will slowly begin to move in the direction of resolving the complications arising as a result of Viola's disguise. The first of these situations is when Viola is mistaken for Sebastian by Antonio. The audience, who waited for such complications to arise, can now enjoy the humor of the situation. The falling action of the main plot is gradually moving towards a final resolution of the complications.


Act III also contains the climax of the subplot with a totally changed Malvolio in scene 4. His conversation with Olivia is at cross-purposes, as he keeps alluding to the letter. Olivia has no idea what he is referring to and she asks Maria and Sir Toby to look after him. His being shut up in the dark room is the beginning of a rapid falling action of the subplot.

In Act IV, Sir Toby loses interest in the intrigue after being rebuked by Olivia. It is left to Feste, who after teasing him for some time, promises to help him out of his predicament. Olivia marries Sebastian in Act IV, mistaking him for Cesario/Viola. The plot thus moves closer to the resolution of the complications.

Act V serves as a conclusion for the main plot as well as the subplot. Although it consists of just one scene, the scene is long, the action fast paced, without any omissions or superfluous details to detract the audience. The revelation of Viola's real identity resolves the complications present throughout the play in the main plot. In keeping with the idea that "Twelfth Night" is a romance, Viola, who has always loved the Duke, will now marry him. The Duke and Olivia are quite willing to shift their affections to Viola and Sebastian. The main plot concludes on a happy note. The subplot too draws to its logical end, as Malvolio is released from the dark room, and Fabian provides Olivia with the details of the intrigue against Malvolio.

The various side plots in "Twelfth Night" come together in the end to make the play a complete and harmonious piece of work.

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