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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: November ::
Re: Olivia and the Beast
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1886  Wednesday, 3 November 1999.

[1]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 2 Nov 1999 16:15:34 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1874 Olivia and the Beast

[2]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 3 Nov 1999 14:47:19 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1874 Olivia and the Beast


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Tuesday, 2 Nov 1999 16:15:34 -0800
Subject: 10.1874 Olivia and the Beast
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1874 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.

Yeah, it does. She ends up married to a cutie. A stranger, but one who
looks exactly right.

>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
>down..."

This I like. They assign 1593-98 to the sonnets and 1601 to 12th Night.
I know the arguments (language, sentiments, resemblances to Venus and
Adonis and the Rape of Lucrece) for the early dates but my obsession
with Edmund Shakespeare being the subject of 1-10 makes me prefer the
latest possible date. Will does tend to group themes. MforM and AWTEW
are written back to back and both use the bed trick. The later plays are
all father and daughter estrangements, reunions.

Edmund was born in 1580. If he joined his brother as an apprentice at
12, that would be 1592. He could have been doing women's parts. In 1598
he would have been 18--possibly a blond, handsome youth who looked like
his mother.  He was 16 years younger than Will, probably played with
Will's children, and the only one of the family we know about who went
to London and entered Will's trade. He was buried December 31, 1607.
After which the plays become sporadic, and take on the Jacobean
tragi-comic tone.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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Date:           Wednesday, 3 Nov 1999 14:47:19 +1000
Subject: 10.1874 Olivia and the Beast
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1874 Olivia and the Beast

I loved your posting, Dana.

With regard to trivializing conceptions of Olivia: I was very impressed
with the Trevor Nunn film of TN.  Helena Bonham-Carter's Olivia was
vulnerable but intelligent, and emphatically not ridiculous.  What did
others think?

Speaking of films, and with regard to making the Sonnets come out
better, I am also reminded of Shakespeare in Love, in which a
TN-yet-to-be was envisioned as a way to make R&J and the screenplay's
lovestory come out better...with Sonnet 18 thrown in for good measure.

And speaking of the Sonnets...the theme of the procreation sonnets
(1-17) -- you're so beautiful you really should marry and have kids-is
really not so conventional.  In this, it's similar to the matter of
addressing sonnets to a male: several critics have said that this was
"conventional," perhaps as a way of avoiding (to them) uncomfortable
issues.  As part of my current big project on Sonnets 1-17, I've been
slogging through dozens of (really awful) Elizabethan sonnet
sequences...and have yet to find any significant parallels with
Shakespeare's argument on procreation.  The most likely source is an
Erasmus letter, translated and printed in one of the rhetoric handbooks
as "Letter to persuade a young man to marry." Even this isn't all that
close to what Sonnets 1-17 do (preemptive apology: as usual, I have none
of my notes and sources close to hand; I can provide the documentation
for this in another post or offline if anyone is interested).  If anyone
knows of any close parallels to the procreation argument in any of the
Elizabethan/Jacobean sonnet sequences, I would love to hear about them!
Of course, as Dana notes, Cesario uses an almost identical argument with
Olivia (and in doing so departs from Orsino's more conventional
"script").  Uncertainty about the Sonnets' dates still exists-perhaps
the argument of 1-17 came from TN, rather than vice versa.

Thanks for a great letter, Dana.

Cheers,
Karen Peterson-Kranz
Dept. of English & Applied Linguistics
University of Guam
 

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