Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Twelfth Night” as Want to Read:
Twelfth Night
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Book* *Different edition

Twelfth Night

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  158,439 ratings  ·  3,895 reviews
Named for the twelfth night after Christmas, the end of the Christmas season, Twelfth Night 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, ea
Paperback, Folger Shakespeare Library Edition, 272 pages
Published July 1st 2004 by Simon Schuster (first published 1601)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Twelfth Night, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Gergana Act II, Scene 5. Malvolio, reading "Olivia's" letter.…moreAct II, Scene 5. Malvolio, reading "Olivia's" letter.(less)
Christine That is an interesting question. I don't think so! If Olivia had a twin, she would not have been so naive as to mix up Sebastian and Viola. Twins know…moreThat is an interesting question. I don't think so! If Olivia had a twin, she would not have been so naive as to mix up Sebastian and Viola. Twins know that game of switching places (although it is not really possible with a male and female.) Still, I get the idea that Olivia was not a twin herself. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  158,439 ratings  ·  3,895 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Twelfth Night
May 18, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shakespeare
I wish I could've seen what performances of this play were like in Shakespeare's time. Since women couldn't be on stage, men had to play the women's roles, which means that the guy playing Viola had to also dress up as a man while acting like a woman.
You have to wonder if the audience ever really knew what was going on. I'll bet you anything you like that some form of the following conversation took place in the Globe Theater at one point:
GROUNDLING 1: Wait, wasn't that guy playing a girl? Why'
Ahmad Sharabiani
Twelfth Night; or, What You Will, William Shakespeare

Twelfth Night, or What You Will is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written around 1601–02 as a Twelfth Night's entertainment for the close of the Christmas season.

The play centers on the twins Viola and Sebastian, who are separated in a shipwreck. Viola (who is disguised as Cesario) falls in love with Duke Orsino, who in turn is in love with the Countess Olivia. Upon meeting Viola, Countess Olivia falls in love with her
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Come Play With Us Danny...
Twins: Freaky or Fun?
Twelfth Night is Shakespeare's answer to that age-old question.


While I was listening to this, I had no idea that Viola & Sebastian were twins. As far as I knew, they were just siblings. But, apparently, they were (<--if I had read the blurb, I would have known this).
And apparently, it was also easy to pass as a man 400 years ago!
I guess if Gwen could do it (and still find time to write her ever-practical GOOP blog), then I could too!


This is useful to know, in case I ever g
Elle (ellexamines)
This is my favorite ridiculous show and so I'm beginning this with a chart:
pink: marriage
blue: crush on
green: flirts with

So, yeah, this is a really really funny play, and a play with a lot of good puns, etc etc etc, and it is for that reason that it is entertaining. But this show is compelling for some deeper reasons. Here, I will insert several bits of my eight-page essay on gender and sexuality in Twelfth Night, an essay that got embarrassingly long.

Throughout Twelfth Night, Shake
Henry Avila
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Now a strange astonishing thing or two happened, off the west coast of the Balkans, ( Illyria) in an undetermined age, aristocratic identical twins a boy and a girl well around twenty, give or take a few years were lost at sea, shipwrecked by a powerful storm. Presumed drowned by the other surviving sibling, both saw their relative in an untenable situation. But this being a play the twins keep on breathing reaching the beautiful, dry, glorious beach with separate help from out of the blue, the ...more
Bill Kerwin
May 12, 2007 rated it really liked it

The treatment of Malvolio is a little too cruel, Belch and Aguecheek are a little too coarse, and the resolution is a little too abrupt, and so this excellent Shakespearean comedy falls a little short of perfection.

Still, the poetry about music and the songs themselves are wonderful, Viola and Orsino are charming, and Feste is the wisest and best of clowns.
Sep 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Dolors by: Face it
“Twelfth night” is probably the most well rounded of all the Shakespearean comedies I have read so far, both for its structure and thematic scope, which is close to the darkest side of his best tragedies.

Evading the somewhat shallow hedonism of his earlier comedies, the perplexed reader encounters a play that is opened with a shipwreck on the coast of the fictional town of Illyria. The twins Viola and Sebastian were onboard of the crashed vessel but they lose sight of each other amidst the chao
Jan 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Book Review
4 out of 5 stars to Twelfth Night, a comedy written in 1601 by William Shakespeare. There are more reviews written about Shakespeare than either of us know what to do with, on, over or about. So you're not getting a review from me. What I will say is the following: Love him or not, the man can create brilliant plots and characters. Twins. Mistaken identities. Tomfoolery. Witchcraft. A chain of "who's on first" when it comes to which character is in love with which other ch
Jan 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Reading Shakespeare is almost like going down into the basement of literature and examining the foundations.

So often I find the origins of what has become trite and overdone, and yet Shakespeare was the fountain from which so much springs. This is especially true of Twelfth Night, it is apparent that so many comedies and romances over the centuries were heavily influenced by this play.

Very entertaining.

Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”

This was fun. The thing is that comedies are always more fun on a stage. Ultimately, so are tragedies.
Shakespeare created a hilarious story of love, confusion and foolishness. There is a lot of genderbending and cross-dressing and homosexualitating (yes, I know that is not a word). Quite a queer tale. And in the end, everything and everybody is set straight and does not marry below their own station. A bit
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Twelfth Night is the first Shakespearean play I read. I was too young to appreciate Shakespeare at that time but I still remember liking it very much. So when I decide to return to reading Shakespeare once again, it was natural for me to begin with Twelfth Night. To my greater disappointment I felt something vacant and bare in the play. I just couldn’t believe it is the same play that I used to like so much. I don’t know if it is due to the edition that I read or my mood at the time of readi ...more
Sean Barrs
I really didn’t expect to like this. Most comedy is wasted on me, but Shakespearean comedy is just so damn funny. Reading this play is only half the picture. I think this is a play that really must be seen in performance as well. I watched a DvD version of the recent globe production and I was practically rolling on my living room floor with laughter. It had an all-male cast, which just made it even better. Mark Rylance as Olivia was just pure comic genius, and Stephen Fry as Malvolio was just a ...more
Joe Valdez
Mar 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays
December 31, 2017 review

My return to the world of William Shakespeare and my favorite play--though I find Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing to be superior dramatically, neither are as romantic or riotously funny as this--brought me back to my first reread on Goodreads and Twelfth Night. Work on my novel ground to a halt several weeks ago at the halfway mark and I wanted to return to a couple of texts that remind me of why I'm a writer. I also noticed that as of December 30, I was one book short
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Feb 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
So this one doesn't rank terribly high on the believability scale, but this is still my favorite Shakespeare comedy. It's absurd to have a set of fraternal twins -- brother and sister! -- who look so much alike that people who know them reasonably well can't tell them apart. Shakespeare may not have been entirely clear on the distinction between identical and fraternal twins or, more likely, he just didn't care. But push the Disbelief Suspension button here and just go have fun with this love tr ...more
Samra Yusuf
May 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: play
Twelfth night being the last comedy of William Shakespeare, is highly acclaimed and panned at equal measures. We come to peruse and praise his literary genius through his artistic handling of different themes packed in one play. On the surface, the play exhibits traces of mistaken identity, deception, Lovesickness, melancholy, desire and abundance, gender and sex, master and servant, but on the broader canvass, the colors are more vivid and glaring laden with undercurrent meanings of these theme ...more
May 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
She’s The Man is better than its source material,” I say into the mic.

The crowd boos. I begin to walk off in shame, when a voice speaks and commands silence from the room.

“She’s right,” they say. I look for the owner of the voice. There in the 3rd row he stands: Willie Shakes himself.


Let me break it down for you: Orsino is in love with Olivia, despite the fact that he has never seen her. Malvolio thinks Olivia is in love with him, Sir Andrew thinks he can marry Olivia. Sebastian agrees to ma
Sep 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: language
A few years ago I read a review of some film that had come out and I was sure I would never see – read the review almost carelessly while flicking through the arts section of the paper on a Saturday morning, no, I must have been clicking over The Age Home Page. The woman who wrote the review commented that whatever the film was had been based on Twelfth Night – which she considered that most ridiculous of Shakespeare’s plays – she really could not see how anyone could be bothered to reproduce th ...more
Whitney Atkinson
I liked the dialogue in this one a lot more than the first one we read for class (A Comedy of Errors). I love the whole "girl poses as a guy in order to trick misogynists into letting her participate in their society" trope, and I just in general loved Olivia and Viola as characters, so I was super into this. My only complaint is that the ending wraps up too swiftly for me and a few of the plotlines were just kinda smooshed into one grand finale, but I was left wanting more.

Not the best Shakesp
Nov 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Besides "Much ado about nothing", Twelfth Night is my favourite Shakespeare play.

The major character is Viola, who after losing her twin brother, is forced to disguise herself as a boy to survive in a strange and hostile land (namely Illyria which is at war with her home county, Messaline). She musters all her courage to hide her pain over the supposed death of her brother. But struggles are not over as she also has to hide her passionate love from Orsino, the Duke of Illyira whom she serves.

Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: the queers, and I hope that means you
Shelves: 2018
Some of these people, my gosh, Janelle Monae and Frank Ocean and Emma Gonzalez, they seem to have moved altogether past gender, right? Oh brave new world. And here's Shakespeare, who once again is meeting us in the future.

Let’s get to it: in Elizabethan times, female parts on the stage were played by men, so we’re starting with cross-dressing. Shakespeare was inspired and amused by this, and he often plays with it. Twelfth Night is the best example, and one of his most enduring comedies. Here’s
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
second time reading it and still a great play! I always enjoy Shakespeare's comedies but this one seems to feel especially humorous to me

this was pretty great! I've never read this play by Shakespeare and I thoroughly enjoyed it for the hyjinks and craziness that happened! I loved the fact that thoroughout the majority of this play, since there were not very many female actresses in SP's time, there is a boy, dressing up as a girl, who is dressing up as a boy. Pretty funny st
Kaylin (The Re-Read Queen)
4 Stars


"Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them."

While not his most well-known work, The Twelfth Night is certainly one of my favorite works by Shakespeare. I've always enjoyed his comedies more than his tragedies, and this one was filled with his trademark wit and crazy situations


Shakespeare loved him some wordplay, and as always, it's masterful. The jokes were quick and hilarious, while still revea
Nov 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Theatre is a genre that you read when you feel like it. It is with pleasure that I find a genre that I like to read, a classic what is more, the Shakespearean theatre showing a model in the genre.
Here, the scenes engage the themes of cross-dressing, misunderstandings, revenge and cunning. Love, of course. Who always with this master, wants to be complex and convoluted.
The characters are archetypes but also conceal the richness of the game. As often, we particularly savour the flights of the madm
One of my book resolutions this year is to read more classics, including some of Shakespeare's plays. Shockingly, I've only read a couple, but ironically I read Twelfth Night at the tender age of 14 as part of my year 9 English class. I wanted to see how much I remembered etc. Surprising, not much.

Basically Viola and her brother Sebastian are involved in a shipwreck, washing up on the shores of Illyria. Both think the other is dead, and Viola dresses up as a bloke to protect her honour or whate
"If you be not mad, be gone; if you have reason, be brief."
- William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night


I liked it, but didn't love it.

Positives: I always like Shakespeare's gender benders. The Bard enjoys not playing characters straight. He doesn't want a love story or even a love triangle, Shakespeare wants to explore all the tangents, the lines, and the angles of love's many geometries. He is a great experimenter of the human soul. He is the Faraday of romance, unsatisfied until he has teased out al
Oct 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
A play that can really come alive when staged, as opposed to read. As with many of Shakespeare's comedies, there's lots of frivolity and crazy fun, undergirded with some darker themes. ...more
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, play
Read aloud with my family this Christmas. So much fun!

I'm glad I read this in class because I wouldn't have gotten much out of it otherwise. Shakespeare may be Shakespeare, but I am also I, and I know my tastes well enough to have before reading this thought "Bro I love certain pieces of your work but I'm fairly certain this is not going to have a honeymoon ending." Comedies tend to make me nervous with their glee and their joy and their soap bubble ideologies, and while the playwright did some wonderfully complex things with gender and the tr
Nov 24, 2012 rated it liked it
You know what? I think this play is the Shakespearean equivalent of Three’s Company, a laugh-track comedy with goofball characters and preposterous situations that trigger a chain of events you can see coming a mile away. We’re talking here about a play in which a woman masquerades as a man (pretty much for the hell of it), deceiving everyone into believing she’s a dude without testes—because how else do you, in the absence of injectable testosterone products, convince people you’re a dude other ...more
sophie.connects.the.dots (on hiatus)
I'm thinking this is a play all about how deceitful appearances can be and how we can never judge true character on someone's outward looks.
Because, truly, just about everyone in this play is not who they seem/claim/appear to be...
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Bard Book Club: Twelfth Night 1 3 Apr 18, 2020 12:26AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please add cover - Twelfth Night 2 16 Apr 11, 2020 07:58PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please correct page count - Twelfth Night 3 17 Oct 20, 2019 11:55PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Correct no. pages 2 10 Oct 12, 2019 02:59AM  
Catching up on Cl...: Twelfth Night - SPOILERS 43 117 Jun 08, 2019 09:12AM  
Play Book Tag: Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare 4.5 stars 11 19 May 27, 2019 06:54PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • A Christmas Carol: What if Scrooge were a woman?
  • Fake
  • Dr. Faustus
  • The Importance of Being Earnest
  • Treasure Island
  • A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Volpone
  • The Duchess of Malfi
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • Oroonoko
  • Beowulf
  • A Doll's House
  • Death of a Salesman
  • This House
  • Oedipus Rex  (The Theban Plays, #1)
  • Sir Thomas More
  • She Stoops to Conquer
  • The Rover
See similar books…
William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "The Bard"). His surviving works consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been tr ...more

Related Articles

Need another excuse to treat yourself to new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
51 likes · 12 comments
“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” 15179 likes
“If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.”
More quotes…