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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: August ::
Re: Twelfth Night
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1470  Monday 23 August 1999.

From:           Brian Haylett <
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Date:           Friday, 20 Aug 1999 20:44:18 +0100
Subject: 10.1428 Twelfth Night
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1428 Twelfth Night

L. Swilley asks,

>'How should we define the flaw of Orsino in "Twelfth
>Night"?  Where and how is that flaw corrected?  And how does Orsino's
>choice of Viola satisfy as a proper term of and reward for that
>correction?

It is usually assumed that Orsino and Viola were dumped together as a
throwaway ending, and so Orsino has to be a reformed character. But his
last words - 'But when in other habits you are seen, Orsino's mistress
and his fancy's queen' - contains an echo of his first speech - 'So full
of shapes is fancy That it alone is high fantastical.' Perhaps Orsino
has learned nothing at all, and 'fancy' is not love, as some editors
have it, but delusion. After all, this man has just been turned down by
Olivia, turns to Viola and tells her she is to marry him, and gets no
answer (for she never speaks again). This intended marriage may be as
fragile as Olivia's, for she has married the wrong twin anyway; she
knows nothing of Sebastian.  Does Viola deserve such a fate? Well, she
falls in love with Orsino before she can judge anything of his
character; and it could be claimed that in II.ii she is expecting to
love him even before she has seen him.  If this view holds water, there
are no romantic heroes in the play, and the truest love is at the Toby
Belch/Maria level. It would help explain the cynical closing song (and
perhaps chime with the move to Problem Plays and Tragedies).

Brian Haylett
Caister-on-Sea
 

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