Twelfth Night was probably composed in 1601, and certainly no later than 1602. Hamlet has a more doubtful provenance, possibly written before 1601 but also certainly no later than 1602. It is not inconceivable that Shakespeare worked on them simultaneously, or back to back. What is clear is that the themes and preoccupations of these two works tend to bleed into each other, even while their effects dramatically diverge. One theory, and it’s a good one, is that the death of Shakespeare’s eleven-year-old son Hamnet (his daughter Judith’s twin) informed both plays: Hamlet, a fantasy of the young man cut off in the prime, and Twelfth Night, a fantasy of reunion for siblings severed by fate. In both plays, ‘the whirligig of time brings in his revenges’.
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