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The Collation

Twelfth Night

What better play to consider on the twelfth night of Christmas than Twelfth Night?

Viola Allen and James Young as Viola and Sebastian (1904)

Viola Allen and James Young as Viola and Sebastian (1904)

Although there are discrepant practices today whether the Feast of the Epiphany—marking the visit of the Three Kings to Bethlehem to worship the Christ child—is celebrated on the 5th of January or the 6th, in Elizabethan England, the Epiphany was celebrated on the 6th. Like other festivities in the season, Twelfth Night was a time of topsy turvy celebrations inverting social order: boys crowned in mock religious processions, heavy drinking and lavish feasts, parody and misrule replacing stern morality. It was, of course, also marked by song and performance.

So, what does this all have to do with Shakespeare’s play?


Surely Viola Evans is Edith?

Stephen Foley — January 6, 2015


No, Viola Allen was an American actress who lived from 1870 to 1945. There are a lot of photographs of her and her performances at the Folger and a brief article about her on Wikipedia. Although Edith Evans was an important English Shakespearean actress, we don’t have any images of her in our online digital image collection. (There are, however, some recordings of her that can be listened to through the Internet Archive!)

Sarah Werner — January 6, 2015


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