The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1874 Tuesday, 2 November 1999.
Date: Monday, 1 Nov 1999 18:26:40 -0500
Subject: Olivia and the Beast
I don't know why productions of TN usually make Olivia seem ridiculous
from the outset. There's nothing inappropriate about the depth of her
mourning for her brother-even if she weren't genuinely fond of him, she
has certainly suffered many losses (both her parents) and is in serious
practical difficulties as an affluent single woman. Some commentators
have described her as a "giddy teen-ager" but clearly she is over 21 (or
she would be Sir Toby's ward rather than merely his unwilling hostess).
She has to marry SOMEBODY, and to turn down the most eligible bachelor
in Illyria, she must REALLY dislike him.
That made me think of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," where Belle also
turns down the most eligible local bachelor because he's a self-absorbed
nitwit. In light of his hart-hunting propensities, I bet Orsino really
does use antlers in all his decorating. Like Belle, Olivia encounters a
love object whose external appearance is deceiving-unfortunately for
Olivia, this does not work to her benefit.
By the way, TN as a whole is a kind of effort to make the Sonnets plot
come out better. "Cesario" uses conventional sonnetteering arguments
(you're so gorgeous you have to marry and have kids). But in the
Sonnets, the (male) object of the poet's ardor rebuffs the (male) poet.
In TN, the (female) object of the poet's feigned ardor enthusiastically
pursues the (female) who utters the compelling sentiments. I can imagine
Shakespeare saying, "Shoot me down in flames, huh? I'll show you shot
PS--has anyone started a literary superstore called Bard, Barthes and