Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" Part 1: The Story


Twelfth Night, named for the celebration that is both the culmination and the close of the Christmas festivities, is a bittersweet romantic comedy at once melancholy and merry. Through its central plot, in which the female Viola takes on the guise of the male Cesario and becomes beloved of both men and women, this play is also one of Shakespeare’s most modern approaches to identity and sexuality. In this course, you’ll learn the story and context of Twelfth Night, explore the questions it raises around genre and gender, and hear the play’s key speeches performed and analyzed by world-class Shakespearean actors and literary scholars. In Part 1, you’ll be guided through a detailed account of the story with commentary by Emma Smith, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of Oxford. Professor Smith offers key historical context for understanding the wide variety of relationships depicted in the play. This summary is told using the language of the play itself, placing key quotations in context to help you understand where these lines come from and what they mean.

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