Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 September 2010
Stage-directions like ‘Enter Viola and Maluolio, at seuerall doores’ (2. 2. head) and ‘Maluolio within’ (4. 2. 22 S.D.) suggest that the manuscript from which Twelfth Night was printed in 1623 was, as we have found with most other texts hitherto issued in this edition, either itself a theatrical prompt-book or a transcript therefrom. This original, moreover, must have been a fine example of its kind, since the transmitted text contains very few verbal cruxes, most of them long ago solved, is furnished with stage-directions and punctuation which are on the whole both adequate and competent, and gives no serious trouble either in the arrangement of its verse or—except for some natural confusion between the speech-headings Fab. and Tob.—in the distribution of its speeches. In short, the Folio text is on the whole happy and well-ordered like the exquisite comedy it has preserved, and the task of an editor is light indeed in comparison with that presented him in All's Well, the play last issued in this edition. Yet there is one respect in which the editorial problems of the two plays are surprisingly alike. We found that All's Well had been neglected and that much work needed doing on its exegetic side. Twelfth Night, one of the most popular of all Shakespeare's productions, would have attracted, one might suppose, a full measure of attention from commentators.