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Twelfth Night, or What You Will

Twelfth Night, or What You Will


by William Shakespeare

 Table of Contents

Twelfth Night, or What You Will Themes

Twelfth Night, or What You Will Themes

Art and Culture

In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare explores the workings of the theater and other related forms of artistic performance – licensed "Fooling," music, and singing, which also happen to be forms of r...


"Love" is a term that characters in Twelfth Night like to bandy about, and the play takes them to task for it as it exposes and explores the folly of misdirected desire. Characters that claim to be...


Gender is a biggie in Twelfth Night, and the play brilliantly demonstrates how gender, a socially constructed identity, can be "performed" and impersonated with the use of voice, costume, and manne...

Language and Communication

Letters and love poetry circulate throughout Twelfth Night as the play reflects on the value and hidden dangers of written words. Shakespeare exposes the way poetry can lose all meaning and credibi...

Society and Class

For modern audiences, it's easy to forget about issues of "class" in Shakespeare's famously gender-bending play. Yet, crossing gender boundaries is not the only kind of social transgression at work...

Rules and Order

Twelfth Night takes its name from the Carnival-like festivities surrounding the Christian feast of the Epiphany. (Go to "What's Up with the Title?" for more on this.) Like the Mardi Gras festival,...

Lies and Deceit

The theme of deception is an important component of Twelfth Night. Physical disguises, forged documents, and blatant lies allow the play to think about the relationship between appearances and real...

Foolishness and Folly

Twelfth Night goes to great lengths to expose the folly of human behavior. It takes shots at love-sickness, mourning, social ambition, and even moral propriety. Throughout the play, foolish behavio...

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