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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: October ::
Re: Malvolio, Toby, and LLW
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2332  Friday, 12 October 2001

[1]     From:   Bruce Young <
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        Date:   Thursday, 11 Oct 2001 10:24:28 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2329 Re: Sir Toby

[2]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Thursday, 11 Oct 2001 13:09:10 -0400
        Subj:   Sir Toby?

[3]     From:   Graham Hall <
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        Date:   Thursday, 11 Oct 2001 19:23:02 +0000
        Subj:   Tearful misanthropy

[4]     From:   John Briggs <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 Oct 2001 11:15:44 +0100
        Subj:   Love's Labours Won

[5]     From:   Bob Grumman <
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        Date:   Thursday, 11 Oct 2001 17:20:27 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2329 Re: Sir Toby


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bruce Young <
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Date:           Thursday, 11 Oct 2001 10:24:28 -0600
Subject: 12.2329 Re: Sir Toby
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2329 Re: Sir Toby

Some thoughts on a possibly sympathetic Malvolio:

It may be true that we (moderns) are more tolerant of folly and more
sympathetic with suffering than Shakespeare and his contemporaries
were.  But maybe we shouldn't congratulate (or condemn) ourselves too
quickly.  The differences between ourselves and our predecessors may not
be quite so stark as we're imagining.

_King Lear_ makes it quite clear that Shakespeare's audiences were
capable of sympathizing with suffering, even on the part of someone who
has been pompous and foolish.  Shylock is a harder case.  Yet while
Shylock is certainly the villain of _The Merchant of Venice_ , the play
also extends a few unmistakable invitations to understand and sympathize
with him.

In any interpretation of _Twelfth Night_ that makes sense, Malvolio is
deeply flawed: self-centered, lacking in self-awareness and in sympathy
for others, and a killjoy besides.  (He's not literally a Puritan,
though, if we're to believe Maria: "The dev'l a puritan that he is, or
anything constantly but a time-pleaser, an affection'd ass," etc.
[2.3.147ff.]).  The trick on Malvolio, at least up till his
imprisonment, provides some of the best fun in all of Shakespeare.

But I don't think the play, considered carefully and as a whole, wants
us simply to enjoy the tormenting of Malvolio and side with his
opponents.  Maria and probably Feste come off mainly sympathetically,
but our response to Toby and Andrew will be mixed.  I find Toby
especially hard to entirely like, partly because Olivia's and Maria's
criticism (even some of Malvolio's) seem justified, and even more
because by the end Toby reveals a side of his character worse than
drunkenness or even than Malvolio's stupidity: Toby's self-centeredness
and lack of sympathy for others are more conscious and deliberate than
Malvolio's, revealing themselves in his manipulation of Andrew (compare
Iago with Roderigo) and in his savagely turning on him at the end ("an
ass-head and a coxcomb and a knave, a thin-fac'd knave, a gull!"
[5.1.206-07]).

Does the play invite any sympathy with Malvolio?  Consider the
following:

When she hears of Malvolio's supposed madness, Olivia says, "Let some of
my people have a special care of him.  I would not have him miscarry for
the half of my dowry" (3.4.62-63).  Apparently, for all his faults,
Malvolio is a valued servant.

Audiences may respond with either pain or amusement (or a mixture of
both ) to Malvolio's description in the last scene of what he's been
through.  But Olivia's response shows something other than heartless
enjoyment of another person's suffering:

         Prithee be content.
This practice hath most shrewdly pass'd upon thee;
But when we know the grounds and authors of it,
Thou shalt be both the plaintiff and the judge
Of thine own cause.

Fabian suggests that the trick on Malvolio was at once funny and cruel
and argues that both sides of the quarrel have a case:

How with a sportful malice it was follow'd
May rather pluck on laughter than revenge,
If that the injuries be justly weigh'd
That have on both sides pass'd.

Then Olivia: "Alas, poor fool, how have they baffled thee!"

I think the play ends with a mixture of attitudes: both sympathy and
amusement at Malvolio's plight, a desire for harmony and some degree of
justice and mutual satisfaction (and enlightenment) on both sides of the
quarrel, some continued mocking (by Feste--but he's the only one at the
end who keeps playing that note), and of course the joy and wonder of
the newly united and enlightened lovers and siblings.  The laughter
Feste is hoping for now in place of revenge is not, I think, malicious
and mocking, but a kind of healing, self-aware laughter, of which even
now Malvolio (and probably Toby and Andrew) are unfortunately incapable.

Malvolio may forfeit some of the sympathy we'd like to give him when he
says, "I'll be reveng'd on the whole pack of you."  But Olivia
immediately follows with: "He hath been most notoriously abus'd." And
then Orsino: "Pursue him, and entreat him to a peace."  Their responses
do much to raise them in our opinions--they certainly have a capacity
for generosity that Malvolio lacks.  But of course they weren't locked
up in a dark house either.

In any case, I don't think the play is trying to exalt Malvolio as a
model for our imitation.  But I think it is suggesting that Olivia's and
Orsino's responses to his suffering and anger are appropriate--he has
been badly wronged, and it is right to hope his anger can be mollified.

It's possible to make of Malvolio nothing but an object of scorn and
malicious enjoyment.  But doing so requires ignoring or discounting all
of these indications that another, more complicated response is
possible.

Bruce Young

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Thursday, 11 Oct 2001 13:09:10 -0400
Subject:        Sir Toby?

After reading Don Bloom's two most recent posts, I came across an old
transcript from the 1870's of an encounter between a student and his
professor that may shed some light on recent critical discussions on
this thread:

Student: (timorously advancing). "Professor Blume, I have a great idea
about _Hamlet_: I think. . . ."

Professor: "You think?  Don't tell me you're making inferences again!
The text, man, the text is the thing."

Student:  "Well, yes, but I've been reading over the play, and I think
that there are parallels between some of the other characters and Hamlet
himself."

Professor:  "What? Impossible."

Student:  "Well, not really. It seems that Fortinbras, Laertes, even
Ophelia are all in some ways parallel to . . . ."

Profesor:  "To Hamlet??  Nonsense!  Does Ophelia have a scene in her
mother's bed chamber? Does Fortinbras? Does Laertes?"

Student: "Well, no, but . . . "

Professor: "Well, there's an end on it!  You are inferring your way into
nonsense, boy!" Stick to the text! Practice philology and morphology;
and for heaven's sake, understand that people back in 1600 don't think
like you - thank God!"

Student: "But if you'd just consider. . . ."

Professor: "Look: let me make it clear: you are wrong-headed and
entirely incorrect. Now stop wasting my time."

[Student walks away, slowly, scratching his head.]

There's more to this fascinating manuscript, but that's enough, perhaps,
for us to understand why Kenneth Muir once remarked that each generation
of Shakespeare scholars literally has to overthrow the previous one. It
would be different, of course, if the senior generation were willing to
listen. Alas, that doesn't seem to be in the cards.

--Ed Taft

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Hall <
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Date:           Thursday, 11 Oct 2001 19:23:02 +0000
Subject:        Tearful misanthropy

>From: Don Bloom

 [...]>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 [...]
>
>
>[...]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.[...]

A stiff upper lip replies:

Perhaps you are right....but I don't think you live where I do.

I have hoped for years that perhaps there will be a director who will
suggest that Malvolio speaks his exit line with a sense of enlightened
humour. It would make a change.

Best wishes, Graham Hall

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Briggs <
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Date:           Friday, 12 Oct 2001 11:15:44 +0100
Subject:        Love's Labours Won

The references to Love's Labours Won in the "Sir Toby" thread have
persuaded me to offer my own theory to an uncaring world.

First of all one should point out that there are very few facts, and no
one theory can match all of them. Q1 of LLL says on the title page
"Newly corrected and augmented".  It seems highly probably that there is
a lost edition, probably by a different publisher.  It used to be
thought that this was a "bad" quarto, but opinion is turning towards Q1
being a straight reprint.  In Francis Meres' "Palladis Tamia" (1598) he
lists some of Shakespeare's plays including "his Loue labors lost, his
Loue labors won".  What is thought to be part of a bookseller's
stocklist was discovered, and this concludes:

marchant of vennis
taming of a shrew
knak to know a knave
knak to know an honest man
loves labor lost
loves labor won

The 1590s are becoming a trifle crowded with Shakespeare's plays: there
doesn't really seem to be space for a "lost" one.  Suggestions have been
made in the past that LLW could be an alternative title for either Much
Ado or The Shrew, but these are now discounted.  Could it be an
alternative title for LLL itself?

These are probably all the facts there are.  T.W. Baldwin managed to
write a whole book with these few facts about a totally non-existent
play!  I couldn't swear to have actually read the book: although I do
possess a copy, it is buried beneath a particularly high pile of books,
and so is essentially inaccessible!  It is a slim book, especially by
Baldwin's standards, so I may have absorbed the contents by osmosis!

Anyway, my solution is as follows:  the lost quarto (probably a "bad"
quarto) was entitled "Love's Labours Lost, Love's Labours Won", and this
title was independently mistaken by both Meres and bookseller as being
two works.  I know this is a bit messy, but as I said before, no one
theory fits all the facts!

Thoughts anyone?

John Briggs

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bob Grumman <
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Date:           Thursday, 11 Oct 2001 17:20:27 -0400
Subject: 12.2329 Re: Sir Toby
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2329 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.

Right, we wouldn't include some plays that Shakespeare CO-authored
(apparently).  But I never said the First Folio was the "immutable limit
of the Canon, or even--more sensibly--of the dramatic canon; I said that
if there had been a Loves Labours Won, it would have been in it; I say
that because (1) Loves Labours Lost was in it, which suggests a
follow-up play would have been in it, too; (2) Loves Labours Wonne would
have been entirely by Shakespeare so eligible for the First Folio; (3)
it is likely it would have been fairly popular (as LLL seems to have
been) and well-written since it would have been written just as
Shakespeare was coming into his own, so not overlooked for the First
Folio; (4) Meres knew about it, so why wouldn't Heminges and Condell?
(5) Meres left out The Taming of the Shrew, which almost certainly had
been written and performed by 1598 (for stylistic and dramaturgic
reasons).

> > 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.

I remember reading about that but forget the details.  Was The Taming of
The Shrew listed separately?  If not, then LLW could have been it.

                                              --Bob G.
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