Alternative Ending to Twelfth Night

I keep thinking about the ending of Twelfth Night. I realize that Shakespeare emphasizes the underlying tragedy in a comedic play, but I think the play could have ended differently. The play has underlying tragedy, as suggested in class, many of the characters experience both please and pain.

There is balance between happiness experienced and some type of pain or suffering.


  • Upset by the (supposed) loss of her brother in a shipwreck
  • Falling in love with Orsino, potentially marrying him (ending)


  • Deception by Cesario/Sebastian who he thinks stole away Olivia
  • Falling in love with Cesario/Viola


  • Shipwreck- which leads to friendship with Antonio
  • Marrying Olivia
  • Reunited with his sister


  • Friendship with Sebastian
  • Ends up alone, no love connections
  • Feels betrayed by Sebastian, but the real person deceiving is Cesario who has never met him


  • Loss of her brother
  • Falling in love with Cesario/Marrying Sebastian

Sir Toby

  • Tricks Sir Andrew into thinking that Olivia loves him
  • Marries Maria

Sir Andrew

  • Deceived by Sir Andrew; he is lead to believe Olivia returns his affections
  • Used to fund the partying and fun the group participates in


  • Joke played on him, to make him think Olivia (who he is in love with) has feelings for him
  • Locked up because he is thought to be mad
  • Truth comes out; there seems to be no consequences for the foul treatment
  • Ends up alone; wishes to seek revenge- extremely unhappy

Identity, disguise and misleading others are a common theme throughout the play. These concepts are closely linked to the tragedy experiences by the characters. Malvolio is constantly deceived throughout the play, and does not end happily.

I think a suitable alternative ending could be a happier ending for Malvolio.

Olivia could have punished her servants for their torturous behavior towards Malvolio. She could have expressed more of a concern for the deception that had been occurring behind her back, and under her roof. After this scene, Olivia could conveniently had a sister come to visit. Her sister would look identically to Olivia. She would fall in love with Malvolio, and he would transfer his affections to her instead of Olivia because Olivia’s sister would truly appreciate him. This would avenge the horrific behavior that he experienced throughout the play. Malvolio would be consumed with happiness and would forget his plan of vengeance.

This would play on the consistent themes of identity, and similarities of siblings. Cesario and Sebastian are identical. Also, Shakespeare would create a clever name for Olivia’s sister. (However, I am not as good as word play)

Although Shakespeare leaves the audience to use their imagination, I think this would be a more suitable ending to the play.


2 thoughts on “Alternative Ending to Twelfth Night

  1. chaska44

    I really enjoyed how you arranged the events each character experiences in a list form. It really helped me to understand the confusing connections each character has to another. I agree that Malvolio seems to be treated badly in this play, and he doesn’t ever receive any sort of “pay-off” or happy ending himself. I wonder what Shakespeare intended by doing this. Maybe there is a deeper meaning (or perhaps not at all).

  2. Marie

    In the organized list you set up – it is easier to see if Shakespeare created a pattern, or a reason for some characters paying for their pleasure and other characters receiving pain with no pleasure. In lieu of the alternate ending, it is interesting to explore if Malvolio’s karma did or not come in a full circle. Malvolio’s intentions for wanting to marry Olivia are clear – she is beautiful, she is rich, and he wants to control her house! Is this shallow reasoning perhaps why he is tortured to no avail? This logic comes to an end point; however, because Sebastian marries Olivia for perhaps shallow reasoning too. He just met her, she claims to love him, and she want to take care of him. So he does marry her at the same time Antonio is in trouble and in need of Sebastian’s help. Perhaps there is a formula to having the right disguise, a balanced identity, and the power to not be mislead and avoid misleading others (though some of the misleading was done accidentally). With the right proportions the pleasure and pain balance out.


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