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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: October ::
Re: Sir Toby
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2329  Thursday, 11 October 2001

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Oct 2001 15:55:56 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2312 Re: Sir Toby

[2]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Oct 2001 21:19:35 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2312 Re: Sir Toby

[3]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Oct 2001 21:19:35 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2312 Re: Sir Toby

[4]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Oct 2001 23:30:56 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 12.2312 Re: Sir Toby


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Oct 2001 15:55:56 -0400
Subject: 12.2312 Re: Sir Toby
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2312 Re: Sir Toby

> > I rather think that these marriages take place at the end of the lost
> > sequel -- Love's Labours Won
>
> Well, I don't think there was a true sequel.  It'd be in the First Folio
> if there were

If F1 were the immutable limit of the Canon, we wouldn't include Per,
TNK, the Shakespearean passages in Sir Thomas More or any of the
non-dramatic poems, and we came close to losing T&C.

> I think Meres's Loves Labours Won was The Taming of the
> Shrew.

Others have thought so as well, but not many.  In any case, Meres is not
the sole bit of extrinsic evidence.  A bookseller's inventory was
discovered c.  1952 which list LLW as a separate volume.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Oct 2001 16:30:59 -0500
Subject: 12.2312 Re: Sir Toby
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2312 Re: Sir Toby

Well, Ed and I agree about one thing: I am indeed hopelessly out of
date.  Worse, I am such a curmudgeon that I have no desire to try to get
up to date. For instance:

1. I am not much interested in "inferences" as compared to "texts." I
only get involved in these discussions when I get a feeling that people
are inferring their way into nonsense.

2. Of course, speaking quite practically and a sensible
down-to-earth-fashion, Sebastian couldn't possibly have fallen in love
with Olivia since, as you say, he doesn't know her. Except (A) this is
Illyria, or perhaps Cloud-Cuckoo-Land, or Faerie; and (B) even in this
workaday world people do fall in love on very short notice. Shakespeare
doesn't ask us to believe it (doubtless we are much too wise, not to say
cynical, for that), only to accept it for the nonce.It's fun, and this
play, of all plays ever written, is supposed to be fun.

3. I find, reading over the immensely learned postings on this list,
hardly one person in five who seems to have any concept of friendship
and its importance to the human race. All friendships are apparently to
be taken as erotically based (the gospel of Freud, I suppose), and
friendships between members of the same gender are perforce homosexual.
I don't think so, but I find myself in such a tiny minority that I don't
even bother to protest any more because I gather nobody would know what
I was talking about.

(Side note: this does not necessarily apply to Antonio in 12N. His
motives -- conscious motives -- may be innocent of any sexual content,
but I am modern enough to be suspicious, not just of him, but of the
author's intentions. That, to me, is the exception that proves the rule:
his statements and actions seem a bit beyond what we could reasonably
accept.  You'd want to watch out.)

4. Malvolio becomes a sympathetic figure for the same reason that
Shylock does -- we are in this era a great deal more sentimental about
such things than people in Shakespeare's time. And we are a much deal
more tolerant of folly.

The answer (to my mind) is make sure that Malvolio's obnoxious qualities
are sufficiently emphasized. Modern audiences being what they are, you
might want to make him more threatening. He really is a kind of Nazi, so
you might dress him all in black, with black leather boots and belts,
and perhaps even some kind of armband. Then, when he struts about
issuing threats and trying to destroy everyone he doesn't like, the real
danger of his becoming Count Malvolio will become apparent, and no one
will get weepy when he's clapped up in a dark room.

. . . but I digress

Sir, your most obedient, etc., etc.

don

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Oct 2001 21:19:35 -0500
Subject: 12.2312 Re: Sir Toby
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2312 Re: Sir Toby

Let me amend my recent reply to Ed Taft concerning texts and inferences,
as, on review, I find a snotty sound to what I wrote that I didn't
intend.  In the first place, I didn't mean it to imply (much less flatly
say) that his inferences were nonsense. Obviously, I disagree with them
-- not with all, but with much of them -- but I'm not such an arrogant
twit that I consider everything I disagree with to be nonsense. Clearly
he has reasons for his interpretations -- just as I have reasons for
thinking he's missed the boat. So what else is new?

Second, I may be read to have implied that while *I* was solidly
grounded in the study of the text, *he* was not -- with a corresponding
sneer. I did not mean that, and I certainly know better. As his response
indicates he has studied the text very closely.

Wrong-headedly, of course, so that his conclusions are entirely
incorrect -- but what are you to do?

Cheers,
don

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Oct 2001 23:30:56 -0400
Subject: Re: Sir Toby
Comment:        SHK 12.2312 Re: Sir Toby

I have a few two-cents to add to this thread.

First: Edmund Taft wrote,

> Maria tries to curb the excesses of Sir Toby and Feste, respectively.
> She is the Malvolio figure trying to tone it down a bit before Malvolio
> himself gets involved. Thus, the parallelism is established between both
> characters, not by scenes you demand but by scenes Shakespeare actually
> supplies.

Yes, but it seems more contrast than comparison. Maria's attempt to tone
down Sir Toby's habits does not include personal threats, but Malvolio's
does -- he speaks to Toby far beyond his station as a steward: "I must
be round with you" and later, to Maria, for her NOT stopping Toby's
drinking and giving "means for this uncivil rule." He is hardly a
parallel to Maria.

Ed also writes:

> Malvolio does become a sympathetic character during the dark house scene.
> Sensitive readers realize that the joke has gone too far, and Malvolio's
insistence that
> he is a gentleman takes on new meaning.

I see little that is sympathetic in Malvolio. He is completely unchanged
in his self-love, as we see in his exchange with Feste/Sir Topas: "They
...  send Ministers to me, asses, and do all they can to face me out of
my wits," seems to me to be an arrogant series of statements from a
steward -- if we consider that 'they' might include not only Sir Toby,
but (as far as Malvolio knows) Olivia as well.

I've never seen a 'tragic' Malvolio that I thought was well thought out.
He was meant to be seen, I believe, as an unredeemed, pompous Puritan,
not a figure of sympathy. In fact, Sir Toby himself shows more
sensitivity when he says that after the jest is played, they will "have
mercy on him." His nobility is greater than Malvolio could fathom; so is
Olivia's and Orsino's, as we see from their responses to Malvolio in the
final scene.

Ed also remarks,

>Sebastian does not marry
> out of true love, but because he knows a good thing when he sees it. He
> doesn't know Olivia at all, Don! He can't possibly love her, but, given
> her money, position, good looks, etc., he will learn to love her (and
> who wouldn't?).

Several people have commented on the sudden nature of Sebastian's love,
as well as Orsino's sudden switch from Olivia to Viola. Isn't this a
tradition of comedy from long before Elizabethan times and until long
after (how recently was the last "love at first sight" story written,
anyway?). I can't find anything in the text of the play to justify a
cynical view of Sebastian's character. Suspension of disbelief shouldn't
vanish from our theatrical vocabulary so easily -- not even in the 21st
Century!

Penny Freedman wrote:

> I agree with Geralyn Horton that Sir Toby might not use 'thou' to Maria
> in front of Olivia, for example, but when we first see him with Maria,
> at the beginning of 1.3, they are alone together. My point is simply
> that if Shakespeare had wanted to suggest an intimate relationship
> between them, 'thou' was an indicator he could have used. Since Sir Toby
> calls her 'wench', which would usually collocate with 'thou', the choice
> of 'you' seems rather deliberate.

Yes! In fact, Sir Toby's use of the expression, "What, wench?" could be
read as an endearment (although this is not the only possibility!). I
have always considered that Sir Toby's intimacy with Maria is clear from
his opening speech to her. If they were not on close terms, why would he
speak so personally about his feelings/concerns regarding Olivia?

As an aside, Maria's station is not so clearly  'low-born'. Rowe called
her "confidante to Olivia," not servant, nor even attendant. There is
really no need for confusion regarding her station. That Toby tells
Andrew she is a chambermaid does not reduce her to the lower classes
(not any more than the pronouns mentioned in previous postings). Olivia,
as has been pointed out, calls her 'gentlewoman' -- what is more, she is
literate (she can write!), which is highly unlikely in a serving woman.

One-time Feste and Fabian,
Paul E. Doniger

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