TWELFTH NIGHT, or What You Will

or What You Will
Bevington, Chapter 10
The Melancholy Comedy
 Written, 1601 and performed by law students in 1602
 Despite happy resolution to love story, play ends with
Curse of Malvolio
Sad song – “Hey
Ho, the Wind and
the Rain”
The Title
Refers to January 6, the end of the Christmas season.
In Elizabeth’s time, the Feast of Fools was celebrated
between Christmas and Epiphany and had become a
secular comedy
Two plots
 Love plot (Viola, Orsino, Olivia)
 Gulling of Malvolio
The play is self-referential
As Fabian speaks in Act III “If this were played upon the
stage, now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.”
 Duke Orsino is lovesick and counterbalanced by Malvolio
 Olivia’s mournful love is contrasted to Toby’s love of drink
 Sir Andrew is as foolish as the fool is wise
 Twin plots intersect twice (3.1) and (5.1)
 Viola is at the center of the play and has a parallel in
Antonio who places needs of others ahead of self
 Lovers are gently satirical comic portraits of Renaissance
Renaissance character types
Sir Toby is
the braggart
Sir Andrew
is the imposter
Maria is
the sassy servant
Feste is
the wise fool
Sources and inspirations
 Philip Sidney’s ARCADIA
 Emmanuel Forde’s PARISMUS
 Barnabe Riche’s APOLLONIUS
 THE MANAECHMI of Plautus
 Niccolo Secchi GL’INGANNATI
produced in Siena in 1531
Robert Armin
Comedian Will Kempe was replaced in Shakespeare’s
company by Robert Armin, an accomplished musician
and singer, Feste was no doubt written for him
Other speculations
 Speculation from final scene of
informed by scholar Leslie Hotson
who posits the first performance was at
the Queen’s bidding
 Performed at Middle Temple on
February, of the few
accounts of a Shakespeare play in
performance during his lifetime
The Puritans
 The Puritan Strain might be references to noted
Puritans of the day such as Sir William Knollys,
comptroller of Queen’s household -or- John Darrell, a
Puritan preacher who initiated a war of pamphlets
from 1596-1602
Language and Music
 Love plot is lyrical verse; Subplot is earthly prose
 Play is about finding answers and riddles and wordplay
 One of Shakespeare’s most musical plays
 Shakespeare wrote lyrics, music was provided by Armin
and from popular songs of the day. Shakespeare wrote “O
Mistress Mine” but “Farewell, my heart” was a popular
song of the day
 1999 production in NYC was called PLAY ON! was re-set
to Harlem in 40s
Theme of Love
Love, Infatuation and Lust
- love at first sight
- the fooleries of love
- the melancholy of love
Hypocrisy and surprise
 Reality vs. appearances
 Real masks (Sir Topas) vs.
psychological masks
 Funny costume of
Malvolio highlights the
comic subplot
Carnival vs. Lent
Carnival vs. Lent “Dost thou think, because thou art
virtuous there shall be no more cakes and ale?”
crystallizes the battle between the expansive and
repressive forces in the play
Madness runs throughout the play, Shakespeare shows
how close passion is to madness which is also an
extension on the carnival-like spirit of the play
Staging Challenges
 The many moods of the play
 Where is Illyria?
 Identical twins and the love triangle
 The tyranny of the subplot
 Poor Antonio
 The miraculous ending
Twelfth Night
On stage
 Relatively few memorable productions in
Shakespeare’s time
Late 17th and 18th Centuries
 His least performed play until late-18th century
 Samuel Pepys saw a performance in 1663
 Dr. Samuel Johnson enjoyed it despite its
 First production of consequence in 1741 at
Drury Lane with Charles Macklin as Malvolio
 Transformed into a quasi-opera by Sir
Frederick Reynolds and Henry Bishop by the
insertion of songs from other plays
 Sad songs were often cut in favor of lighter fare
19th century - Romantacism
In the 1820s actor-manager
John Philip Kemble began
the practice of inverting the
first two scenes
 Augustin Daly’s 1894 production opened with a
spectacular shipwreck
 1901 production by Herbert Beerbohm Tree featured
an elaborately terraced garden inspired by
photographs in Country Life.
It is believed that he is the
first to put Malvolio in a
nightshirt for 2.3
A London production was
simplified by GranvilleBarker and also made the
role of Feste more central
and wise.
Other notable productions
 Malvolio has become more melancholy
 Branagh’s Renaissance production featured
a wintry landscape
 2003 Globe Production was all-male and
very Elizabethan
Film and television
 1910 Silent Film
 First feature length film
was Russian (1955)
 First Shakespeare play to
be broadcast by BBC in
 1957 Hallmark Hall of
Fame production in
1970 - BBC
 BBC production directed by John Dexter with Joan
Plowright, Alec Guinness and Ralph Richardson
1980 - BBC
 BBC production with Felicity Kendal, Sinead Cusack
and Alec Macowen
1988 – Renaissance Theatre
Renaissance Theatre Production by Kenneth Branagh and
Paul Kafno (for television) with Frances Barber (Viola)
and Richard Briers as Malvolio
 Trevor Nunn film with Imogen Stubbs, Helena
Bonham Carter, Ben Kingsley and Nigel Hawthorne
 Nick Hynter production at Lincoln Center with Helen
Hunt (Viola), Paul Rudd (Orsino) and Philip Bosco
 Your Own Thing (1968)
 Music Is (1976)
 Play On! (1999)
Anne Hathaway as Viola
NYC, 2009

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