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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: November ::
Re: "most wonderful"--Twelfth Night
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2595  Tuesday, 13 November 2001

[1]     From:   Tom Bishop <
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        Date:   Monday, 12 Nov 2001 11:40:08 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2582 Re: "most wonderful"--Twelfth Night

[2]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Monday, 12 Nov 2001 23:50:27 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2582 Re: "most wonderful"--Twelfth Night


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Bishop <
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Date:           Monday, 12 Nov 2001 11:40:08 -0500
Subject: 12.2582 Re: "most wonderful"--Twelfth Night
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2582 Re: "most wonderful"--Twelfth Night

The "double your pleasure" reading of Olivia's "most wonderful", which
always elicits a good laugh, seems to be pretty much the default reading
in productions now. It always seems to me cut across the tone of the
play at this point though. To put it more concretely, it gives the actor
playing Sebastian a very difficult task in his following lines, which
must be played with an air of wondering and exploratory puzzlement,
tinged with a kind of last look at grief.  It's one of those "almost
ghost story" moments Stephen Greenblatt has recently written about, and
which populate so many plays (as at the similar moment in Much Ado):

Do I stand there? I never had a brother
Nor can there be that deity in my nature
Of here and everywhere. I had a sister
Whom the blind waves and surges have devoured.

Making Sebastian say this on top of a great salacious laugh is a very
cruel thing to ask an actor, and in those productions where I've seen
the laugh deployed, the delicacy of this moment has been trampled flat,
which always seemed to me a loss.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Monday, 12 Nov 2001 23:50:27 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 12.2582 Re: "most wonderful"--Twelfth Night
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2582 Re: "most wonderful"--Twelfth Night

The reaction of a Globe audience to the "romance" between Olivia and
Viola/Cesario is complicated. Both were played by boys and the audience
would have been keenly aware of that. However, if the original staging
had included any type of physical expression of Olivia's feelings, the
audience might have been expected to squirm.

Nevertheless, I've always felt that the audience must have been
delighted and amused at Shakespeare's manipulations of the dramatic
irony inherent in the situation. Doubly so because of the gender of the
actors. "Most wonderful" is not only an expression of Olivia's feelings,
whatever they may be, but equally a direct address to the audience, made
comic by our awareness of costumes' abilities to switch genders.  Orsino
also acknowledges the morphic nature of identity and theatre when he
asks to see Viola "in her maiden's weeds", rather than the boy actor
plainly seen as a boy. From the audience's point of view, this means
Orsino asks the actor to disguise himself again (although of course the
character is reverted to
"normal").

Brian Willis

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