365 Days of Shakespeare

That's right – the Bard in a year.

247. Twelfth Night, or What You Will

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Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” contains many of his favorite comedic conventions, making it one of his most delightful plays. There is a shipwreck, a woman disguised as a man, mistaken identities, a marvelously witty fool, nobility and servants both acting crazy, plenty of music, two weddings, and a third couple in love.  Oh, and there are more than enough bawdy puns to go around. I was lucky to get to see Richmond Shakespeare’s production of this wonderful play, and I enjoyed it immensely – enough to be able to completely ignore the hideous heat (which was mercifully soothed by a breeze during the second act).

The adorable and strong character of Viola is who the audience follows, from her situation as a helpless, shipwrecked girl, all alone in a strange land, to her ruse of disguising herself as a boy to keep herself safe and find someone to serve, to her romantic mishaps. All along the way, Viola woos not only Orsino, the object of her affections, but by accident woos the passionate Olivia (whom was intended for Orsino originally) and certainly woos the audience as well. She is an example of one of Shakespeare’s “tough girls”, as I call them: full of brightness, life, love, and wit, able to hold their own against the men – though not in swordplay, as it turns out in a particularly funny scene.

The sub-plots are, thankfully, kept easy to follow, something that is not always the case with Shakespeare. There are the servants of Olivia, led in mischief by Maria. Maria is more than willing to join the men in pulling pranks on the universally loathed Malvolio, the main servant of the house. Poor Malvolio, who is obnoxious but perhaps not enough to deserve the fate he receives, is more or less tortured by the servants and the clown, Feste, and yet it is somehow funny (albeit in a very dark way).

Finally, there is Sebastian, Viola’s twin brother – who looks so much like her that when he shows up in Illyria, hilarity instantly ensues due to their strong resemblance to each other. It is hard to say much more without giving away every nuance of the plot, but it is hard to resist sharing so many wonderful moments!

“Twelfth Night” is a charming play, one that is equally good, clean fun for the family and yet sprinkled with just enough of Shakespeare’s dirty stuff to keep the more astute audience members amused. Even if it did not include so many memorable musical numbers, generally sung by Feste, there is no doubt in my mind that this play would still find a way to sing.


Written by Caroline Mincks

June 5, 2010 at 5:42 PM

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