As I said in the last Shakespeare post, part of my geekiness is that I love, I crave as many versions of each play as possible. (I need to make nice with the library and start treating myself to massive doses of all of the plays so I don’t have to buy them all … I think the library has more than Netflix. I think.) Right now, although Chop Bard has dealt with Romeo and Juliet and is now covering Hamlet, I am hip deep in Twelfth Night.
In the interest of keeping the posts to a humane length, herein be general thoughts on the play. Following will be posts specific to the different productions I’ve found, and … My intent for a couple of weeks now has been to take the character portrayals and a few key scenes and compare them across the … six? productions I have access to. Come to find out, there truly is nothing new under the sun:
Someone is even geekier than I am. Well, still. I’ll just have to try to avoid that site till after I’ve done Hamlet.
Better synopses of the play than I could create can be found all over the web, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel: I’ll just assume a certain amount of familiarity, and go from there, talking about what I need to talk about and leaving the rest. (For the play itself, I recommend Bartleby.com.) From Kristin Chenoweth’s introduction to the HVSF broadcast: (gravely) “William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is about the pain of unrequited love, the danger of hiding our true selves, and the constant nearness of madness and death. (grin) It’s a comedy!” I’ll come back to that.
Twelfth Night is January 5; I can’t help relating the shipwreck to the Titanic exhibition I just saw … Though at least the waters of the Adriatic would be rather warmer than the Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland. *search* Well, it can go lower than 7 degrees Celsius, which is 44.6 Fahrenheit … That’s hypothermia, that is. Depending on exactly when the shipwreck will have occurred … Antonio says he has known Sebastian for three months, so … Um. Does the title have anything at all to do with the timing of the action, or is it more the date the play was performed, and a sort of prep for its original audience so they knew what was in store?
The introductions of the characters are, of course, masterful, a combination of other characters’ lines about them and their own appearances – showing and telling both. The two separate plots – joined mainly together by Feste – are woven about each other in such a way that it’s difficult to lose track of who’s where and why.
I was relieved when I found discussion out in the ‘webs about whether Twelfth Night is truly a comedy. (Told you I’d come back to it.) In the classic high school English definition it qualifies: no one dies, at all, and in the end everyone ends up married. But in the end there is also Malvolio, released from his bonds and angry as hell.
With Twelfth Night I always find myself doing a lot of justifying, because it feels like there is evidence missing from the text. Toby, Mary, Fabian, Andrew, and Feste’s treatment of Malvolio seems over-harsh, even given that he’s a pain; he’s usually right, just nasty about it. So there must have been past offenses, and many, and regular. Fabian’s having gotten in trouble with Olivia couldn’t have been so very bad – he’s still there. Unless his position is now less than it was? But that is never said, so by Chop Bard Rules it isn’t so. It’s hard to keep up a frothy feel to the story when there’s a man spewing fury and venom – or worse; the mood tends to deflate pretty thoroughly. It’s a funny play, very funny – but so are Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, in places. Chop Bard, in fact, makes a strong point that Romeo and Juliet is a bright summer comedy … until it isn’t. It’s bodies falling that make a tragedy, and the only bodies falling in Twelfth are from too much drink.
Yup – there’s another post there.