Internet Shakespeare Editions


Court festivities

Festivities. From the Roxburghe Ballads, University of Victoria Libarary.

Twelfth Night takes its name from the last night of traditional Christmas revels, which coincided with the Christian Feast of the Epiphany (January 6). It is a winter's tale, a happy story full of light, mirth, and music to distract the audience from the English winter gloom.

Perhaps the best of the "festive comedies" (it even has a clown named "Feste"!), Twelfth Night reflects much of the Christmas revels' spirit of festival and liberty. The revels were, as Sir Toby suggests, a time of "cakes and ale" (2.3.104) in defiance of grey winter and black-clothed Malvolio.