Friday, November 30, 2012

Reader's Diary #907- William Shakespeare: Twelfth Night

Apparently the twelfth night refers to the twelfth day of Christmas. That's not why I chose to read it at this point in the year, which is just as well considering there's nothing obviously Christmasy in the play. Not even drummers drumming. It is believed to have been first performed during post-Christmas festivities and the tone of merriment is meant to be instilled by the title.

The focal point of the play is involves a couple of fraternal twins named Sebastian and Viola. They are shipwrecked off the coast of Illyria, where they wind up but separated from one another and believing the other to be dead. Viola disguises herself as a man (again with the cross-dressing!) and finds employment as servant to the local Duke. One of her tasks is to convince a woman named Olivia to marry the Duke. Unfortunately, Olivia starts to have feelings toward the disguised Viola instead. (People fell in love so easily in Shakespeare's day, don't you think?) When Sebastian shows up, Olivia mistakes him for Viola, proposes and they get married. Blah, blah, blah, the Duke marries Viola, and because three weddings are even better than two, a couple of lesser characters named Toby and Maria tie the knot as well. Hugh Grant probably showed up.

However, it's with the secondary plot that I took issue. After being reprimanded for partying by Malvolio— this play brought to you by the letters V and O— Olivia's uncle, his friends, and her servants, team up to get revenge by convincing Malvolio to act like an idiot, after which they get him locked away for being crazy. I'm not sure what purpose this plot served. The love triangle (square?) certainly didn't need comic relief, and thankfully so, as I kind of felt Malvolio was being treated quite cruelly. Your neighbour asks you to keep the noise down so you get him locked in a padded cell? Seems more harsh than funny.

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