William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is a comedy that was first performed in 1602. It tells the story of a love triangle between Duke Orsino, Olivia, and Viola, who is disguised as a man named Cesario. Duke Orsino loves Olivia, Olivia loves Viola disguised as Cesario, and Viola loves Duke Orsino. At the end of the play, the love triangle is resolved when Viola’s twin brother, Sebastian, arrives in the city and marries Olivia, who believes that Sebastian is Cesario. Viola casts off her Cesario disguise, and Duke Orsino asks her to marry him. Although the play is a comedy, it explores the serious theme of social climbing.
In the sub-plot of the play, several characters trick Olivia’s steward, Malvolio, into believing that Olivia loves him. Malvolio is overjoyed at the opportunity to improve his social status through marriage to the wealthy Olivia. Malvolio, however, never marries Olivia. Instead, the other characters ridicule him for his social ambitions. At the end of the play, Malvolio is utterly humiliated and vows to take revenge upon all of the other characters in the play.
If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it; that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die. —
That strain again; it had a dying fall:
O, it came oer my ear, like the sweet sound
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing, and giving odour! Enough! No more.
‘Tis not so sweet now as it was before.
I am sure care’s an enemy to life.
Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage.
’T is beauty truly blent, whose red and white
Nature’s own sweet and cunning hand laid on:
Lady, you are the cruell’st she alive
If you will lead these graces to the grave,
And leave the world no copy.
O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O stay and hear: your true-love’s coming,
That can sing both high and low:
Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
Journeys end in lovers’ meeting,
Every wise man’s son doth know.
What is love? ‘Tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What’s to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty;
Then come kiss me, sweet-and-twenty:
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.
Let still the woman take
An elder than herself: so wears she to him,
So sways she level in her husband’s heart:
For, boy, however we do praise ourselves,
Our fancies are more giddy and unfirm,
More longing, wavering, sooner lost and worn,
Than women’s are.
Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.
Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb, like the sun; it shines everywhere.
Thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.