Twelfth Night

This article is about Shakespeare's play. For other uses, see Twelfth Night (disambiguation).

Named for the twelfth night after Christmas, the end of the Christmas season, Twelfth Night, one of William Shakespeare's plays, plays with love and power. The Countess Olivia, a woman with her own household, attracts Duke (or Count) Orsino. Two other would-be suitors are her pretentious steward, Malvolio, and Sir Andrew Aguecheek.

Onto this scene arrive the twins Viola and Sebastian; caught in a shipwreck, each thinks the other has drowned. Viola disguises herself as a male page and enters Orsino's service. Orsino sends her as his envoy to Olivia—only to have Olivia fall in love with the messenger. The play complicates, then wonderfully untangles, these relationships.

Shakespeare probably wrote Twelfth Night in 1601–02; its earliest recorded performance was in February 1602. It appears in the 1623 First Folio. Sources include Plautus's Menaechmi and "Apolonius and Silla” in Barnabe Riche's His Farewell to the Military Profession.[1]

Productions at the Folger

Helen Hayes Awards
Nominations: the "James MacArthur Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor, Resident Play" for Louis Butelli and Richard Sheridan Willis, and "Outstanding Costume Design, Resident Play" for Mariah Hale
Helen Hayes Awards
Nominations: "Outstanding Director, Resident Play" for Aaron Posner

Early editions

First Folio

LUNA: First Folio: Y2r - Z6r
Hamnet: STC 22273 Fo. 1 no. 68

Second Folio

LUNA: Second Folio: Y2r - Z6v
Hamnet: STC 22274 Fo. 2 no. 07

Modern editions

Twelfth night Folger Edition.jpg

Twelfth Night can be read online with Folger Digital Texts and purchased from Simon and Schuster. The play can also be purchased in Three Comedies, a collection that also includes A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Taming of the Shrew.

Hamnet link to Folger Edition: PR2753 .M6 2004 copy 2 v.35

In popular culture


Watch the trailer for this teen comedy adaptation of Twelfth Night, She's the Man (2006) starring Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum, and David Cross.


The Folger owns at least 15 stand-alone translations of Twelfth Night in various languages (not including collected works). Cataloging of these works is ongoing as of early 2015, and many have full-level catalog records, but some works still have only partial records. Translations can be found Hamnet in by searching for "Translations"in the Genre/Form Term field, or by searching the Call Number (Left-Anchored) field for call numbers starting with PR2796 (see the list of Sh.Col. translations call numbers for specific language call numbers). Since not all translations are fully cataloged, some items may only turn up in one of these searches.

Performance materials

Other media

Image Group

Explore the curated image group for Twelfth Night in the Folger digital image collection.


  1. Adapted from the Folger Library Shakespeare edition, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. © 1993 Folger Shakespeare Library.