Sebastian's presence in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night: or What You Will is a vexation. More pointedly, it is his sudden marriage to Olivia which troubles me so. Was he written in to give a parallel storyline between Olivia and Viola? Was he a convenient way to have a double wedding, which Shakespeare seemed to prefer for his happy endings? Or, could there be some other meaning to Sebastian?
The last day of the Christmas season is January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, when Christ was revealed to the world in the personage of the Magi. The evening before is called Twelfth Night, the most "riotous" holiday of the year for Elizabethans (Singman 61). Supposedly, the classes changed places for the day. Servants lorded over their masters; higher order clergy served the lowly priests; children were free of rules. Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night probably in 1600, and performed it on January 6, 1601 for Queen Elizabeth and her guests, one of which was Don Virginio Orsino, Duke of Bracciano (Halliday 154). F. E. Halliday believes it possible that Shakespeare changed the name of the Duke of Illyria to Orsino in tribute to Don Orsino (155).
Twelfth Night was based on Barnabe Riche's story of Apollonius and Silla. Silla falls in love with Apollonius and follows him back to Constantinople. She is shipwrecked, and is saved by clinging to a chest containing the lecherous captain's clothing. For safety, since her servant, Pedro, has drowned, she dons the men's clothing; calls herself Silvio after her twin brother; and goes into the service of Apollonius. Apollonius asks her to woo Julina for him, but Julina falls in love with Sill...
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...tic, Golden Comedies.
Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. New York: Riverhead Books-Penguin Putnam, 1998.
Halliday, F.E. Shakespeare. New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1961.
Riche, Barnabe. "Apollonius and Silla." Riche: His Farewell to Military Profession. 1581. William Shakespeare: Four Comedies. Ed. David Bevington. Toronto: Bantam-Scott, Foresman and
Company, 1988. 524-546.
Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. Ed. David Bevington. Toronto: Bantam-Scott, Foresman and Company, 1988. 283-377.
Twelfth Night. Ed. David Bennington. Toronto: Bantam-Scott, Foresman and Company, 1998. 427-517.
Singman, Jeffrey L. Daily Life in Elizabethan England. Greenwood Press. "Daily Life Through History" series. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995.
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