That was how Robert Manningham described a production of Twelfth Night at the Middle Temple at Candlemas (2 February) 1602. It was not the first performance, which must have taken place at least a year earlier, as Shakespeare wrote the play before or during 1600. But the record of it that Manningham gives (Manningham was a barrister at the Temple) provides us with two useful pieces of information. The play was suitable for private performance on one or other of the festive occasions at the Inns of Court and elsewhere during the winter (Leslie Hotson believes that the first performance was in honour of another festive occasion — the entertainment of Orsino, Duke of Bracciano at Whitehall on 6 January 1601). We do not have to take its title too seriously. None of the three ‘contemporary’ occasions when we know it was performed fell on a Twelfth Night. Two of them (this one and one in 1623 at court) fell on Candlemas. The other (for King James in 1618) on Easter Monday. Only Hotson’s hypothetical first production took place on an actual Twelfth Night.


Romantic Love Private Performance Mistaken Identity Shared Life Festive Occasion 
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© Patrick Swinden 1973

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  • Patrick Swinden

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