No, indeed, sir; the Lady Olivia has no folly: she
will keep no fool, sir, till she be married; and
fools are as like husbands as pilchards are to
herrings; the husband's the bigger: I am indeed not
her fool, but her corrupter of words.
--Feste , Act III, scene I
Let's start 2012 with a seasonal favorite - a riotous comedy of mistaken identity, gender confusion and deception.
If this were played upon a stage now, I could
condemn it as an improbable fiction.
--Fabian, Act III, scene iv
Viola is shipwrecked on the shores of Illyria. Believing that her twin brother Sebastian is dead, she disguises herself as a man, Cesario, and (with the help of the sea captain who rescues her) enters the service of Duke Orsino.
Orsino has convinced himself that he is in love with the bereaved Lady Olivia, whose father and brother have recently died, and who will have nothing to do with any suitors, the Duke included. Orsino decides to use "Cesario" as an intermediary to tell Olivia about his love for her.
Olivia, believing Viola to be a man, falls in love with this handsome and eloquent messenger. Viola, in turn, has fallen in love with the Duke, who also believes Viola is a man, and who regards her as his confidant.
O time, thou must untangle this, not I.
It is too hard a knot for me t'untie.
--Viola Act 2, scene ii
Meanwhile, several characters conspire to make Olivia's pompous head steward, Malvolio, believe that his lady Olivia wishes to marry him.
I have them at my fingers' ends.
--Maria, Act I scene iii
It's not necessary to read the play beforehand, but it's easier to understand what's going on if you familiarize yourself with the plot first. Please bring copies of the text if you have them, but if you don't then don't worry about it - someone might bring multiple copies, there's probably copies in the shop and at a pinch there's always somebody who doesn't mind sharing.
The play will probably take about 2 hours to read. With distribution of parts and discussion, you should plan to park until at least 4pm. There is plenty of metered street parking available for about $5. If that's too much, let me know and I'll work something out.