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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: October ::
Re: Sir Toby et al.
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2380  Thursday, 18 October 2001

[1]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 17 Oct 2001 15:18:56 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2369 Re: Sir Toby et al

[2]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 17 Oct 2001 20:36:45 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 12.2369 Re: Sir Toby et al.


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Wednesday, 17 Oct 2001 15:18:56 -0500
Subject: 12.2369 Re: Sir Toby et al.
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2369 Re: Sir Toby et al.

Michael Friedman writes:

>This is going to sound like a very naive question, but where does
>Sebastian ever say that he's in love with Olivia?  I'm directing a
>production of the play right now, and I can't recall any such
>admission.  Even when he agrees to a betrothal ceremony, he merely says
>that he will swear to be true to her.  Are we making the assumption that
>because he agrees to marry her, he must love her?  I would have to
>respond that there are a whole lot of reasons why people get married in
>Shakespeare plays, and love isn't the only one.

Very good points, all of them, but --

Question 1: He doesn't. Of course, he doesn't say that he *doesn't* love
her -- which (before some one snaps my head off) I recognize as being a
weak response, but still relevant because of 2 (below).

Question 2: "Must" is a loaded word here. Let me say that it makes sense
to assume that he loves her, since any other motivation (such as the
suggested greed) makes him disgustingly crass.

Let me go back to my old method of looking at choices. If you choose to
regard 12N as lighthearted and intentionally funny, then you make the
villain villainous, the lovers loving, and the comic characters comic.

Since I do choose that, 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. It fits the romantic
comedy mode and is not blocked by any lines suggesting some other
motivation.

Some people want something else from their 12N. They choose to make the
villain pathetic, the comic characters vicious, and the lovers greedy
and/or sexually ambiguous. The resulting play is necessarily bitter,
harsh, and at least slightly incoherent.

De gustibus and all that. As long as you see clearly what you're
choosing and what you get as a result, I have no more to say.

(Were I directing the play (sigh), I would counsel my actor playing to
Sebastian to do his lines and his responses to Olivia as lovingly as he
can, thereby contributing to the whole mood of the play. I believe this
view has been labelled narrow, doctrinaire and out of date, doubtless
with considerable accuracy.)

Good luck,
don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Wednesday, 17 Oct 2001 20:36:45 -0400
Subject: Re: Sir Toby et al.
Comment:        SHK 12.2369 Re: Sir Toby et al.

Michael Friedman asks,

> This is going to sound like a very naive question, but where does
> Sebastian ever say that he's in love with Olivia?  I'm directing a
> production of the play right now, and I can't recall any such
> admission.  Even when he agrees to a betrothal ceremony, he merely says
> that he will swear to be true to her.  Are we making the assumption that
> because he agrees to marry her, he must love her?  I would have to
> respond that there are a whole lot of reasons why people get married in
> Shakespeare plays, and love isn't the only one.

True, but this is a play about love (I think I'm being repetitive).
Besides, isn't swearing to be true as strong an oath as an avowal of
love? Ascribing mercenary underpinnings to Sebastian appears to be out
of character with the whirligig temperament of the play (Harold Bloom
calls the whole thing a "wild performance"). Why else would the play
boast the most gentle and lovable of heroines (Viola) and "the most
charming of all Shakespeare's fools" (Bloom, again). I don't think, when
it comes to the "love at first sight" issues, that there is very much to
read between the lines.

Paul E. Doniger

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