Twelfth Night (Paperback)
Twelfth Night; or, What You Will is a comedy by William Shakespeare. The comedy of Twelfth Night; or, What You Will, was never printed, that we know of, during the author's life. It first appeared in the folio of 1623: consequently that edition, and the reprint of it in 1632, are our only authorities for the text. Fortunately, in this instance, the original printing was very good for that time; the few errors have proved, for the most part, easy of correction; so that the text offers little matter of difficulty or disagreement among editors. In default of positive information, this play was for a long time set down as among the last-written of the Poet's dramas. This opinion was based upon such slight indications, gathered from the work itself, as could have no weight but in the absence of other proofs. No contemporary notice of the play was discovered till the year 1828, when Mr. Collier, delving among the "musty records of antiquity" stored away in the Museum, lighted upon a manuscript Diary, written, as was afterwards ascertained, by one John Manningham, a barrister who was entered at the Middle Temple in 1597. Under date of February 2d, 1602, the author notes, "At our feast we had a play called Twelfth Night, or What You Will, much like The Comedy of Errors, or Menechmi in Plautus, but most like and near to that in the Italian called Inganni." The writer then goes on to state such particulars of the action, as fully identify the play which he saw with the one now under consideration. It seems that the benchers and members of the several Inns-of-Court were wont to enrich their convivialities with a course of wit and poetry. And the forecited notice ascertains that Shakespeare's Twelfth Night was performed before the members of the Middle Temple on the old Church festival of the Purification, formerly called Candlemas;-an important link in the course of festivities that used to continue from Christmas to Shrovetide. We thus learn that one of the Poet's sweetest plays was enjoyed by a gathering of his learned and studious contemporaries, at a time when this annual jubilee had rendered their minds congenial and apt, and when Christians have so much cause to be happy and gentle and kind, and therefore to cherish the convivial delectations whence kindness and happiness naturally grow. As to the date of the composition, we have little difficulty in fixing this somewhere between the time when the play was acted at the Temple, and the year 1598. In Act iii., scene 2, when Malvolio is at the height of his ludicrous beatitude, Maria says of him, "He does smile his face into more lines than are in the new map, with the augmentation of the Indies." In 1598 was published an English version of Linschoten's Discourse of Voyages, with a map exactly answering to Maria's description. Nor is any such multilineal map known to have appeared in England before that time. Besides, that was the first map of the world, in which the Eastern Islands were included. So that the allusion can hardly be to any thing else; and the words new map would seem to infer that the passage was written not long after the appearance of the map in question. Again: In Act iii., scene 1, the Clown says to Viola, "But, indeed, words are very rascals, since bonds disgraced them." This may be fairly understood as referring to an order issued by the Privy Council in June, 1600, and laying very severe restrictions upon stage performances. This order prescribes that "there shall be about the city two houses and no more, allowed to serve for the use of common stage plays"; that "the two several companies of players, assigned unto the two houses allowed, may play each of them in their several houses twice a-week, and no oftener"; and that "they shall forbear altogether in the time of Lent, and likewise at such time and times as any extraordinary sickness or infection of disease shall appear to be in or about the city.
About the Author
William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 (baptised) - 23 April 1616) was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist.