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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: October ::
Re: Sir Toby et al.
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2416  Tuesday, 23 October 2001

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Monday, 22 Oct 2001 14:58:00 -0400
        Subj:   Sir Toby et al.

[2]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Monday, 22 Oct 2001 14:58:00 -0400
        Subj:   Sir Toby et al.

[3]     From:   Michael Friedman <
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        Date:   Monday, 22 Oct 2001 16:21:08 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2380 Re: Sir Toby et al.


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Monday, 22 Oct 2001 14:58:00 -0400
Subject:        Sir Toby et al.

David Bishop makes a great deal of sense when he writes of _TN_ that

"The theme seems to be that outward signs, and love at first sight,
mislead.  AYLI does something similar: [Orlando] 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."

With Orsino and Viola, friendship comes first, and, once Orsino sees
Viola in "woman's weeds," sexual attraction is presumed to follow. The
case is harder with Sebastian and Olivia, but we might optimistically
conclude that Sebastian is such a virile male that he will reciprocate
the sexual desire that Olivia already has evinced, and that the basic
good natures of both will assure that they will become not only lovers
but friends. These are leaps of faith, of course, on the part of the
audience, but not unwarranted ones.

But Sebastian's newly found wealth and the dashing of Malvolio's hopes
to become "count" also suggest that economics is part of marriage in
this play. (How could it not be?) Perhaps Malvolio had at least one
thing right: "All is fortune!"

--Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Monday, 22 Oct 2001 14:58:00 -0400
Subject:        Sir Toby et al.

The question of Maria's motivations for playing her trick on Malvolio
still hangs in limbo, perhaps because it generated such intense heat at
the time.  I originally stated what I thought these motives were: (1)
she dislikes Malvolio intensely; (2) she hopes to so please Sir Toby
that her long-unrequited love for him might be reciprocated; and (3) she
wishes to rise socially and, in effect, take Malvolio's place.

To support the third of these motives, I pointed to parallels between
Maria and Malvolio, especially to their duplicate (and competing) role
in main-taining household order. Since this argument raised howls of
incredulity, I wish to support it by referring to Eric Mallon's
highly-regarded, recent study of _TN_:

        Maria seeks to ruin Malvolio by finessing the removal of this
        newly altered, fractious churl.  But neither Maria nor Malvolio
        sets about to demolish the Olivia regime; indeed, they both
        want to rise quietly in power within it. . . . In other words,
she
        succeeds where Malvolio fails -- and on two counts. First, she
        manages to delimit the disorder that he cannot; and second, she
        ascends in rank through an aristocratic marriage, a goal that
also
        escapes her fellow underling. (Mallin, _Inscribing the Time_, p.
186.)

Perhaps Mallin too is "inferring his way into nonsense," but you can't
prove it by me. His observations seem pretty self-evident once you stop
and think about them.

--Ed Taft

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Friedman <
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Date:           Monday, 22 Oct 2001 16:21:08 -0400
Subject: 12.2380 Re: Sir Toby et al.
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2380 Re: Sir Toby et al.

Sorry that it's taken me so long to respond to all the people that my
"naive" question provoked to enter into the discussion.  I will try to
get to all of the issues that were raised about Sebastian loving Olivia
before my next student gets here.

For Don Bloom.  First, I think you and I have a very different idea of
what constitutes support for an assertion about a Shakespeare play.  To
avoid getting into trouble, I try to hold myself to a pretty high
standard of proof, so "He doesn't say that he doesn't love her" won't
work for me.  Sebastian doesn't say an infinite number of things, but I
don't consider that proof that any one of those things are true.

Second, you write, "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."  I agree with you that you're assuming
Sebastian's love, so the question then becomes, does any other
motivation than love make him crass and therefore disgusting.  I don't
think I ever suggested that Sebastian was greedy; I would merely argue
that Olivia's money is one of the factors that motivates Sebastian agree
to marry her.  Another is her great beauty.  Another is the status that
marrying her would give him.  Sebastian has just survived a shipwreck
but lost everything he had in the world, he thinks, including his only
remaining family member.  Suddenly, in his moment of despair, a woman
comes along and offers to make him a rich count with a gorgeous wife who
loves him passionately.  Is it so far-fetched to believe that even a
sympathetic young man in that situation would say yes to Olivia,
consider himself damn lucky, and hope that love would come afterward?

Part of the difference here lies in the fact that you seem to be making
the further assumption that marrying (even partly) for money is crass.
I happen to agree with you; I myself wouldn't consider pecuniary
advantage a good reason to marry, but I'm pretty certain that
Shakespeare disagrees with us.  He has some of his most attractive
characters offer money as a primary qualification in a spouse.  Consider
Beatrice and Benedick, for example: when Benedick is dreaming about his
perfect woman in the gulling scene, he begins her description, "Rich she
shall be, that's certain" (2.3.30).  Beatrice, a few scenes earlier, in
conversation with Leonato about "an excellent man" says, "With a good
leg and a good foot, uncle, and money enough in his purse, such a man
would win any woman in the world" (2.1.13-15).  Are Beatrice and
Benedick therefore "crass"?  I think we need to make a distinction
between what we personally believe are the best motivations to marry and
those that Shakespeare endorses, which may be different from those that
we approve of.

Thus, I think Shakespeare sees nothing wrong with Sebastian being
willing to marry Olivia partly because of her money, and my critical
method makes me more interested in what Shakespeare seems to think about
this issue than what I think personally.  I tend not to see *Twelfth
Night* as a dark play at all, and I don't think that having Sebastian
marry Olivia open to loving her someday (as opposed to being in love
with her at the time) makes it into a bitter, harsh, or incoherent play.

For Paul Doniger.  No, I don't think that swearing to be true is the
same as swearing to love.  Truth here, I think, implies faithfulness,
the promise not to love another, to keep the marriage vows.  Actually, a
much better argument against me, which no one has put forward (and I
only thought of it myself just now) is that the Priest claims that
Sebastian was party to "A contract of eternal bond of love" (5.1.156)
between himself and Olivia.  I suppose I would have to respond that
"love" is the Priest's word for what their betrothal signifies, not
Sebastian's word.

I'm also not sure I follow the logic of the argument that the play is
about love, therefore Sebastian must love Olivia.  Does Malvolio *love*
Olivia, or does he simply want to become "Count Malvolio"?  If it's the
latter, then I don't know why there can't be room for other emotions
besides love in a play that is, admittedly, about love.

Finally, for Jane Drake Brody.  I don't have any trouble at all
believing in love at first sight.  I'm totally convinced that Romeo and
Lucentio, to give two examples, experience that sudden emotion.  But
Romeo, upon seeing Juliet, says, "Did my heart love till now?  Forswear
it, sight! / For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night" (1.5.54-55).
Lucentio, seeing Bianca, says to his servant, "I burn, I pine, I perish,
Tranio, / If I achieve not this young modest girl" (1.1.155-56).  Is
there anything that Sebastian says that comes anywhere near these
statements?  Why not?  Shakespeare could have written some if he had
wanted to.  Hypothetically, if Shakespeare wanted to create a character
who agrees to marry a woman, not for love exactly, but for all the other
wonderful qualities that she possesses, what would he look and sound
like?  Wouldn't he resemble Sebastian?  I have to disagree with you, at
least in terms of making an argument; love does depend upon textual
references.

Michael D. Friedman
University of Scranton

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