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Orsino, Duke of Illyria.
gentlemen attending on the Duke.
servants to Olivia.
MARIA, Olivia's woman.
SCENE: A city in Illyria, and the sea-coast near it.
Interval of three days.
a different scheme occupying three months (V. I. 97, 101).
Daniel, Trans. N. Shak. Soc. 1877-79.
TWELFTH Night was first printed in the Folio of 1623. Its history begins, for us, with the feast in the hall of the Middle Temple, 2nd February 1602, when it was apparently first performed. John Manningham, an otherwise undistinguished law-student, described the performance in terms which leave no doubt of its identity :-'At our feast wee had a play called Twelue night or what you will, much like the commedy of errores or Menechmi in Plautus, but most like and neere to that in Italian called Inganni, a good practise in it to make the steward beleeue his Lady widdowe was in love with him by counterfayting a letter, as from his Lady, in generall termes, telling him what shee liked best in him, and prescribing his gesture in smiling, his apparaile, etc. And then, when he came to practise, making him beleeue they tooke him to be mad.' The play thus described must have been comparatively new; it is incredible that the creation of Malvolio, in after years extraordinarily popular, should have already been familiar to the London stage when Manningham jotted down this essentially “first-night' précis of his rôle. But there is no scrap of definite external evidence on the point; even Meres's omission (1598) of the play, in his well-known list of twelve Shakespearean pieces, does not quite decide that it had not yet been written,
since his purpose was to exemplify, not to enumerate. Some recent critics have set the serious element in the play—the. Viola, story-at a much earlier date (c. 1593), chiefly on the grounds of its obvious relation to the stories of The Two Gentlemen and The Comedy of Errors, which it combines. Professor Conrad also dwells upon certain parallels in phrase to these and the other early comedies. Some of them are striking, but they are few, and largely balanced by other parallels to plays undoubtedly later; while the very similarity of the situations in which they occur would account for more resemblances of phrase than in fact exist. And the similarity of the stories only accentuates the differences in art. Only the most mechanical criticism can associate Viola chronologically with Julia in The Two Gentlemen, because they both serve their lovers in disguise. That the Malvolio story belongs to 1600-1 is, in any case, beyond question ; some slight indications point to the latter year, especially the catch (sung in ii. 3.):
'Farewell, dear heart, since I must needs be gone,” which first appeared in the Book of Ayres, 1601.
Of the later history of the play there is little to be said. The evidences of its popularity are more striking than abundant, and they concern only the comic plot. Ben Jonson paid the duel scene the compliment of an elaborate imitation in the similar scene between Sir Amorous La-Foole and Sir John Daw in The Silent Woman (1609). Marston's What You Will (pr. 1607) may possibly owe its title to Shakespeare, -it certainly owes nothing else,-and have led to the final disuse of this second title of his play in favour of the apparently meaningless first. On the eve of the closing of the theatres, Twelfth Night was still, with Henry IV. and Much Ado, 1 Fleay, Chron. Hist. of Shakespeare, p. 219.