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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: November ::
Re: Sir Toby, Sebastian, et TN
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2543  Monday, 5 November 2001

[1]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Friday, 2 Nov 2001 12:53:31 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2530 Re: Sir Toby, Sebastian, et TN

[2]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Saturday, 03 Nov 2001 08:17:18 -0500
        Subj:   Sir Toby, Sebastian, et al

[3]     From:   Rainbow Saari <
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        Date:   Monday, 5 Nov 2001 13:00:44 +1300
        Subj:   Sir Toby et al


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Friday, 2 Nov 2001 12:53:31 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 12.2530 Re: Sir Toby, Sebastian, et TN
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2530 Re: Sir Toby, Sebastian, et TN

Thomas Larque wrote,

> I would have thought that such conversations would
> be far more likely to
> run along the lines of "Here is the script for
> Twelfth Night" or "We are
> just printing Twelfth Night now" than to include
> "This is the play with
> Innogen in it" or references to other parts of
> internal text..  Titles
> are the single most likely thing to have been
> discussed with people who
> knew the plays, and knew how the titles should be
> pronounced.

This might not necessarily be true. How could one explain the play "All
Is True", which was advertised and known to its audience by that title?
That play is now commonly known and was printed under its title
character's name, Henry VIII.

Also, although it is not currently the case, plays such as Twelfth Night
and Merchant of Venice were known and referred to in the 17th and 18th
centuries by the names of their most intriguing characters, Malvolio and
Shylock.

Brian Willis

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Saturday, 03 Nov 2001 08:17:18 -0500
Subject:        Sir Toby, Sebastian, et al.

Brian Haylett asks,

"At the end of this play, does any character have an untroubled future
in prospect? Does the spirit of comedy demand that we ignore the likely
instability of the planned marriages?"

Looked at logically, Brian has a good point. Orsino has become friends
with Viola, but the necessary erotic attraction is yet to be confirmed,
though the Duke does hint earlier that he is attracted to Cesario
because of "his" feminine features. Olivia marries a stranger who may
well be a perfect partner for her, but only time will tell. Sir Toby has
just revealed a nasty side of his nature that may make us wonder whether
Maria got such a bargain after all.

In one way, this is not so different from _AYLI_: after all, how long
will Touchstone and Audrey stay together? But _TN_ may be a bridge
between the earlier comedies and the problem comedies to come: _All's
Well_ and _MM_.  "The spirit of comedy" can never be absolute because no
one can foretell the future with any accuracy. Whether we feel confident
that, say, Toby and Maria will stay together probably goes beyond the
reach of literary criticism, just as, at a wedding, one guest leaves
full of hope for the couple while another harbors more than a few
doubts.

--Ed Taft

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rainbow Saari <
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Date:           Monday, 5 Nov 2001 13:00:44 +1300
Subject:        Sir Toby et al

Don Bloom wrote (10/18/01 ) of the Sebastian/ Olivia relationship,

'... I assume that Shakespeare (after the fashion of Phil Sidney, Ed
Spenser, Kit Marlowe and others of the time) wanted us to imagine a
situation of love at first sight."

David Bishop commenting on 12 th Night ( 10/22/01 ) points out

"The theme seems to be that outward signs, and love at first sight,
mislead.  AYLI does something similar: Orsino falls at first sight, but
is given a chance to get to know, and love, Rosalind in disguise.
Immediate sexual attraction is a great misleader, not a reliable sign of
real love.

In 12th Night the best love comes unsought, sneaking in the back door.
Love comes first, sex later. That's why the contradictory suddenness of
the connection between Olivia and Sebastian seems to go against the
grain."


I've enjoyed reading the thoughts of other SHAKSPER members ( Dana
Shilling, Michael Friedman, Paul E. Doniger, Jane Drake Brody, Ed Taft)
on the issue of  Sebastian/ Olivia's romance. One thing that strikes me
is that the *only* direct quotation from a contemporary writer ( OK a
recently deceased one) in all of Shakespeare's Works is the line taken
from Marlowe's' Hero and Leander';

Who ever lov'd, that lov'd not at first sight?

which WS incorporates in AYLI (   3.5 ). It seems not unreasonable to
assume WS was familiar with the  lines that preceded the one he chose to
quote.

It lies not in our power to love, or hate,
For will in us is over-rul'd by fate.
When two are stript long ere the course begin,
We wish that one should loose, the other win;
And one especiallie doe we affect=20
Of two gold Ingots like in each respect.
The reason no man knowes, let it suffice,
What we behold is censur'd by our eies.
Where both deliberat, the love is slight,
Who ever lov'd, that lov'd not at first sight?

Venturing ( again! ) into the realm of speculation, it seems likely to =
me that in AYLI and in Twelfth Night we have Shakespeare's humourous =
exploration of Marlowe's  premise, above stated, that love is not love =
unless it begins 'at first sight' .

'or What You Will' may carry the meaning of not only ' as you please'
or 'whatever you wish' ( as you like it ? ), but may also here allude to
Marlowe's  lines

It lies not in our power to love or hate,
For will in us is over-rul'd by fate.

'What You [we] Will' ( our plans for our future, our desires, sexual and
otherwise, etc ) is over-rul'd by fate' claims Marlowe's verse.
Shakespeare begins 'What you Will' by having Fate, in the form of a
shipwreck, separate Sebastian and Viola, thereby beginning a chain of
events that culminates in Fate reuniting them. Consider the use of the
word 'fate' in the play. Olivia first uses it upon first falling 'in
love at first sight' with the supposed 'youth' Cesario ( 1.5 )  Having
sent Malvolio after him she muses, paraphrasing Marlowe,

I do I know not what, and fear to find
Mine eye too great a flatterer for my mind.
Fate, show thy force. Ourselves we do not owe. [own]
What is decreed must be; and be this so.

Immediately after, ( 2.1) Antonio and Sebastian enter. Sebastian,
believing his sister drowned, bemoans 'the malignancy of [his ] fate' .
He would rather have died with her. 'But you, sir, altered that ' he
tells his saviour, who by their conversation seems to be a fairly new
aquaintance, one who shows  signs of being struck with love for
Sebastian 'at first sight',

During the gulling of Malvolio, fate ( with a little assistance)  having
brought Olivia's ( supposed ) letter to that worthy's hand, Malvolio
reads,

'Some are born great, some achieve greatness, some have greatness thrust
upon 'em. Thy fates open their hands, let thy blood and spirit embrace
them....'

Stanley Wells in his introduction to Twelfth Night ( The Oxford
Shakespeare) sees the title of the play's referral to the
'topsy-turvydom' that marked the end of the Christmas festivities 'in
which a servant aspires to his mistress's hand,'as  having ' no more
specific reference' and offers no explanation of 'or What You
Will'.Given the play's theme of the interaction between  Fate and what
the characters 'Will' for themselves, and the issue, several times
raised, of 'love at first sight'.  I suspect that 'What you Will' has
reference to Marlowe's Hero and  Leander. I think it likely that in this
play Shakespeare is taking the mickey out of Marlowe's poem far more
'dexteriously' than Ben Jonson later does in his crude parody of it in
Bartholomew Fair.

Cheers,
Rainbow

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