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Discoveries on Twelfth Night


Eating, drinking, merrymaking and revelations are associated with Twelfth Night, the last day of Christmas and the eve of Epiphany.

Alfred the Great had a rough Twelfth Night in 878 when Vikings treacherously attacked, but he also had an epiphany. Things that had been hidden from him were revealed - he learned who he was meant to serve and what he was meant to do.

In Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night, the heroes and heroines learn who they really love. Viola, who has been shipwrecked on the shore of a strange city, disguises herself as a man, becomes a servant to the Duke and falls in love with him. But the Duke can't see her for who she really is, and thinks he's in love with rich Olivia. Viola is compelled to carry his love messages to her, and Olivia falls in love with the man she thinks Viola is. In the meantime, unknown to Viola, the twin brother she thought lost in the shipwreck, who looks exactly like her, arrives on the scene and falls in love with Olivia. . .

Out of the resulting riot rises Twelfth Night's hidden theme -

"Be that thou know'st thou art and then thou art as great as that thou fear'st." Be all you know you are for then you are as great as anything or anyone you fear.

Can we make this revelation our own?

On Epiphany, the 6th of January, the child born in Bethlehem is revealed to be the Son of God.

Cast out fear, Christ said, and those who followed him made a dazzling discovery - they could.

Cast out fear, Christ said, and love. Our dazzling discovery is that when we do, we can.

Comments (1)

Lovely post. It's interesting also to recall that in closed communities, like colleges and some great households, Twelfth Night was the night when 'the last shall be first': the most junior and/or lowly person was sovereign for the evening and imposed amusing tasks on his superiors. This served as sheer fun, as a safety-valve, and as an affirmation of the order of things. It also links nicely with your quotation 'Be that thou know'st thou art' -- when social identity is temporarily inverted, true identity is enabled. Happy Epiphany!

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