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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: December ::
Re: Eunuchs and Castrati
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.2208  Tuesday, 14 December 1999.

From:           John Briggs <
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Date:           Monday, 13 Dec 1999 13:05:14 -0000
Subject: 10.1753
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1753

I have come in late on this discussion, and what I have to say is
somewhat tangential, but here goes anyway:

I have always been fascinated that "Twelfth Night" seems to be an
example of incomplete revision by Shakespeare, while he was writing the
play.  It seems fairly clear that the songs were originally due to be
sung by Viola, but that they had to be transferred to Feste (either
because the voice of the boy due to play Viola broke, or because the
company now had a clown who could sing, or most likely, both).  Because
Feste now spends his time shuttling between the two households, an extra
character, Fabian, had to be introduced to take over part of the
(sub)plot.  Shakespeare (at least in the text we have) never went back
and tidied up the loose ends.  In his recent (1997) Arden 3 edition of
"Othello", E.A.J. Honigmann makes a similar suggestion to explain why
the Willow song was cut.  Unfortunately, he goes further and tries to
show that is the same reason (i.e. the same boy) and suggests that
"Othello" should be re-dated from 1603/4 to 1602!  This still wouldn't
work, as "Othello" would need to be earlier than "Twelfth Night"
("Othello" is being revised after completion, while "Twelfth Night" is
still being written), so I would retain the traditional date for
"Othello" and weakly suggest that Shakespeare was unlucky with his boy
actors!  Comments, anyone?

John Briggs

> ----------
> It should be noted that once Viola says that she will list "eunuch" on
> her resume "because she can sing," it is never referred to again, and
> Feste has to sing "O Mistress Mine" (what is he doing chez Orsino
> anyway?
        .....

> Dana (Shilling)
 

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