The story which furnishes the plot of this comedy is to be found in various degrees of development in the writings of various Italian and French novelists and dramatists of the sixteenth century. Of these a comedy called GV I ngannati (T he Mistaken Ones), first printed in 1537, by an unknown author, is most like Twelfth Night, to which, indeed, it corresponds in plot almost point for point. Such knowledge, however, as Shakespeare had of GV I ngannati was, we may be sure, through some English translation, or some play founded upon it, which has been lost. The principal serious incidents of his own play he might have found in Apollonius and Silla, the second of a collection of tales published by Barnaby Rich, in 1581 ;but from whatever quarter he took these, there can be no doubt that he himself added the inferior comic personages, and worked their doings up with those of their enamored superiors. Twelfth Night was first printed in the folio of 1623 ;but the contemporary diary of John Manningham, a student of the Middle Temple, in London, records its performance in the Temple hall on the 2d February, 1601-2. As Meres does not mention it in 1598, we may be sure that it was written about 1599-1600. It is printed in the folio with a remarkable degree of correctness. There is little doubt as to any important passage in its text ;and none, I believe, has ever been expressed as to the authorship of any part of it. We feel the gentle touch of Shakespeare sgentlest hand in it, from the first scene to the last. As to the period of the action and the costume, there is a delightful uncertainty ;but in regard to other points, an equally delightful certainty. Whoever the Duke of Illyria or Sebastian of Mitylene may be, Toby Belch, Andrew A guecheek, Malvolio, Fabian, and Maria are English men and women of Shakespeare sown day. As to them we may be sure ;and let the uncert
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Delightfully comic tale of mistaken identities revolves around the physical likeness between Sebastian and his twin sister Viola, each of whom, when separated after a shipwreck, believes the other to be dead. Filled with superb comedy, this entertaining masterpiece remains one of Shakespeare's most popular and performed comedies.
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