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Twelfth Night's epiphany


A roe fawn experiencing snow for the first time.

Twelfth Night, the twelfth day of Christmas, the end of Christmastide and the eve of Epiphany, is traditionally a time for things which have been concealed to be revealed.

Shakespeare knew this. In his play Twelfth Night, there is confusion and dismay before everyone's disguise finally falls to the stage. Those who have been concealed are revealed, and they become greater than anything they feared in a joyous epiphany.

Alfred the Great had the beginning of a momentous epiphany on Twelfth Night when Vikings attacked his court and he was driven out into the snow, fleeing for his life with his wife and small children. His epiphany could have ended there, in disaster. But he was open to further revelations.


Alfred's life was brilliant with epiphanies. His willingness to learn from them and his courage in meeting disaster transformed his country and our lives.


Lundy on January 6th 2011

In Shakespeare's Tempest, the passengers of Alonso's ship absorb new insights after they are shipwrecked on Prospero's island. In responding to the epiphanies which accompany crisis, each is challenged, and some find moral and intellectual renewal.

At the end of the Tempest, Miranda cries,

O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in 't!

O, wonder! That Shakespeare, who had written about so many villains, should remain so positive about us in his last play.

We live in a world which has managed to taint even the phrase brave new world.

Yet I believe that each of you reading this hopes to see people as Miranda and Shakespeare did. And seeing Earth's 'goodly creatures', you want to cherish them.

That is an epiphany worth having any night.

This post has been edited and republished.

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