home contact

Twelfth Night: Q & A

When was Twelfth Night first performed? First published?

Twelfth Night was performed on February 2, 1602 in the Middle Temple, one of the four law schools in London collectively known as the Inns of Court. Together with this known performance date and references in the play to real events occurring between 1599 and 1602, we can assume that the play was composed between 1599 and late 1601 (or possibly finished in January, 1602). Twelfth Night was originally published in the First Folio (1623), and the Folio text seems to have been derived from an authentic and complete Shakespeare promptbook. For more information on the folios and promptbooks, please see my article Shakespeare in Print.

Why is Twelfth Night titled as such?

Twelfth Night is the night of Epiphany, January 6, or, the twelfth night after Christmas. This holiday signaled the end of Christmas merry-making and, more importantly, commemorated the Magi. It is likely that Shakespeare wrote the play to celebrate this occasion and thus gave it this specific title. There are critics who connect the holiday and thus the title to characters in the play, like Sebastian and Viola, who could represent Christ's dual nature. But these connections are dubious.


Related Articles

 Shakespeare's Second Period: Exploring Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet and the Histories
 Introduction to Shakespeare's Malvolio
 Introduction to Shakespeare's Feste
 Spiritual Grace: An Examination of Viola from Twelfth Night
 The Comic Relief of Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek

 Twelfth Night: Q & A
 Twelfth Night Plot Summary
 How to Pronounce the Names in Twelfth Night
 Shakespeare and Music
 Famous Quotations from Twelfth Night
 Shakespeare's Reputation in Elizabethan England
 Shakespeare's Impact on Other Writers
 Why Study Shakespeare?

 Shakespeare's Reputation in Elizabethan England
 Shakespeare's Impact on Other Writers
 Shakespeare's Language

 Quotations About William Shakespeare
 Shakespeare's Boss: The Master of Revels

 Elements of Comedy
 How many plays did Shakespeare write?