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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: October ::
Re: Sir Toby et TN
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2466  Sunday, 28 October 2001

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Oct 2001 12:19:52 -0400
        Subj:   Sir Toby et al.

[2]     From:   Tom Bishop <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Oct 2001 13:23:30 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2461 Re: Sir Toby et al.

[3]     From:   John Velz <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Oct 2001 16:43:37 -0500
        Subj:   Feste's Name

[4]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Oct 2001 23:35:54 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2461 Re: Sir Toby et al.

[5]     From:   Brian Haylett <
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        Date:   Saturday, 27 Oct 2001 16:44:02 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2461 Re: Sir Toby et al.


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Oct 2001 12:19:52 -0400
Subject:        Sir Toby et al.

2.3 begins with a discussion between Sir Toby and Sir Andrew about
staying up till midnight (and beyond) merrymaking. When Malvolio enters
after line 81, he's upset in part because it's so late at night -- one
assumes midnight or close to it.

This suggests that Gabriel Egan's view that twelfth night could mean
midnight may be correct.

--Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Bishop <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Oct 2001 13:23:30 -0500
Subject: 12.2461 Re: Sir Toby et al.
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2461 Re: Sir Toby et al.

To argue the point back the other way, however, the case for "Twelve
Night" = "Midnight" as the title, based on Manningham's diary entry,
isn't really very strong either.  There is no way to know what it was
Manningham was planning to write that he crossed out (all we know is
that he decided he was wrong), no way to know what he understood the
title of the play to be except as what he ended up writing, which is as
susceptible of the reading "Twelfth Night" as of "Twelve Night".  Just
as plausibly as the Gras argument, perhaps he thought he remembered it
as "Midnight" but then recollected it was actually "Twelfth Night".
Perhaps he even misheard it. The date of the Middle Temple performance,
February 2nd (i.e. Candlemass), is at least as consistent with the
traditional title, in referring to another major traditional feast day
in the calendar, and the traditional title has the advantage of not
being a strange neologism requiring elaborate explanations not offered
anywhere in the play, in addition to being much more evocative of
context.  (The correct parallel to "Twelve Noon" is of course "Twelve
Midnight", and has always been.)

Added to this there is the odd fact that no one seems ever to have
commented on this radical change in the title. Or is the argument that
it was _only_ for the Middle Temple performance that the play was called
"Twelve Night"? If so, the changed title was clearly the better idea.

TB

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Velz <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Oct 2001 16:43:37 -0500
Subject:        Feste's Name

In re: SHK 12.2461

Paul Doniger and Larry Weiss seem to have overlooked the Latinate pun in
Feste's name.  It is not only from the etymon of Festival, but also with
the sense of speedy.   Shakespeare would have remembered "festinare
lente" (make haste slowly) from his earliest days in grammar school. He
has Friar Lawrence allude to it at Rom. 2.3.94 "Wisely and slow.  They
stumble that run fast."  Cf. his reiteration at 2.6.15: "Too swift
arrives as tardy as too slow."

Note that such a rendering of the name puts "Feste" in a class with
"Speed" in TGV.

Cheers for etymology,
John

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Oct 2001 23:35:54 +0100
Subject: 12.2461 Re: Sir Toby et al.
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2461 Re: Sir Toby et al.

Gabriel Egan seems to be becoming a little desperate in his defence of
Gras' theory.  Apparently he accepts that nobody in the Renaissance ever
used "Twelve Night" to mean midnight (a usage that Gras apparently
invented himself, since Egan's admission suggests that Gras offered no
Renaissance examples in his essay), and therefore claims that
Shakespeare used his "poetical mind" to invent the phrase especially for
the play.  Quite why a Renaissance playwright should use meaningless
gibberish for a title when he could easily have used recognisable and
meaningful words I am not sure.

I would also like to suggest that "12 noon" (Egan's explanation for the
origin of the supposed "12 night") is - unless anybody can offer any
evidence to the contrary - a purely modern phrasing that, like "12
night", was not used in the Renaissance.  I may be wrong about this (and
would be glad to hear from anybody who knows me to be wrong), but "12
noon" doesn't sound anything like Renaissance English usage to me, and
in any case the parallel after dark would not be "12 night" but "12
midnight".

Since "Twelve Night" apparently didn't mean anything in Renaissance
English, most audience members would believe that such a title (whether
written or spoken) was intended to be either "Twelfth Night" or "Twelve
Nights" or would think it simply nonsensical.  Such confusion would
obviously not help to bring in an audience for the play, or purchasers
for the printed text - and it should be fairly obvious that the main aim
of a play title was Theatre Company marketing.

I would challenge Egan to show us any comparable instance of a
Renaissance Dramatist using an invented and incomprehensible term as the
title of a play.  All of Shakespeare's titles are easily understandable
(at least grammatically) - being mostly names or simple phrases - and
the title most closely related to "Twelfth Night" ("A Midsummer Night's
Dream") is also a Calendar date.  The subtitle for "Twelfth Night"
("What You Will") is itself almost identical to the title of another
play ("As You Like It") and almost certainly carries a similar meaning.

Egan again seems to accept that the Folio printers used "Twelfe" for
"Twelfth" and "Twelue" for "Twelve" exclusively and without variation
because *they* thought the play to be titled "Twelfth Night", but goes
on to suggest that this may have been a mistake.  It seems to me very
unlikely that the printers of the Folio would have printed any of
Shakespeare's plays without having conversations with those who were
directly involved in their production (Hemings and Condell, for example)
or at least with others who had had such conversations.  I do not have
any detailed knowledge of the Renaissance English pronunciation of these
words, but would suggest that the Folio spellings imply that they were
easily distinguished in speech if not in the variable spelling of some
Renaissance writers.  If this is true then as soon as the printers had
heard the name of the play spoken they would know whether it was
"Twelfth" or "Twelve".

Gans' theory demands that we ignore the Folio's testimony without very
good reason, and instead assume that Shakespeare used a meaningless
phrase probably never used before or since, which only Manningham and
Gras ever seem to have understood.  Since Egan is so keen to suggest
that the testimony of the Folio Printers is unreliable, surely he must
accept that a slip of Manningham's pen (the only "evidence" for Gras
theory of any kind) is far more unreliable.  Manningham is far more
likely to have misheard or misunderstood the title as a member of
audience for an informal performance than are commercial printers with
direct connections to Shakespeare's fellows and a long-term commercial
interest in his plays.  The explanation that I have most often seen
suggested for the slip (that Manningham began to write the title of the
wrong Shakespeare play) seems far more likely than that Manningham knew
more about the correct title than the Printers of the Folio.  If
Manningham knew the title well enough to make him our chief authority on
it, then he is very unlikely to have made such a mistake in writing it
out.

Besides all this, there is at least one other contemporary reference to
"Twelfth Night", using a spelling which is still more obviously intended
to mean "Twelfth" not "Twelve", which Egan seems not to have taken into
account.  Chambers reprints a record of payment "To John Heminges ...
upon a warrant dated 20 April 1618 for presenting two severall Playes
before his Maiesty, on Easter Monday Twelfte night the play soe called
and on Easter Tuesday the Winter's Tale xx li" ("William Shakespeare" -
vol. 2, p.346).

Although I have seen "Twelve" spelled as "Twelue" and "Twelfe" (and
"Twelfth" in both these forms) I have never seen "Twelfte" for
"Twelve".  While the "fth" sound in "Twelfth" (in modern English at
least) could be made to sound like a "v" or an "f" or an "ft" and
therefore was (in the Renaissance) written in all these forms, I suspect
that the "v" sound in "Twelve" would not normally have been interpreted
as ending in a "t".  Perhaps somebody who knows more about Renaissance
pronunciation (or Renaissance spelling) can tell us whether this is the
case.

It is also worth noticing that the scribe has to distinguish between his
dating of the performance "Easter Monday" and the name of the play
"Twelfte night" and so adds "the play soe called".  I would suggest that
this is because otherwise it might be assumed that the play was
performed on a different calendar date ("Twelfth Night"), but I imagine
that Egan would argue that it might equally be mistaken for the time of
the performance.  I don't know whether performance times were ever
mentioned in this sort of record.

Again the writer of this record has (indirect) contact with
Shakespeare's fellows and had almost certainly heard the title spoken
before writing it.  Again there is good evidence that the spelling used
was intended as a form of "Twelfth Night" and not the nonsensical phrase
invented by Gras.  Since the Chamber Accounts were written before the
Folio was published there is no possibility that the supposed "error"
was passed on from the Printers of the Folio to the scribe of the
Accounts after he read their text.  This means that there are two
independent sources which apparently identify the play with variations
of "Twelfth", against only one (almost certainly the least
knowledgeable) who uses a form that may - or may not - have been
intended to mean "Twelve".

Since there is reasonably firm evidence from two sources that the title
of "Twelfth Night" was intended to be read as "Twelfth Night", and
equally firm evidence that Manningham's "Twelve Night" was a variant
spelling that could be used to mean the same thing, but no evidence that
the words we now spell as "Twelve Night" were ever used to mean Midnight
(or, indeed, anything else) during the Renaissance or at any other time,
Gras ' theory looks like very weak speculation to set against four
centuries of tradition.  I am amused to hear that Egan finds his claims
convincing, and suspect that the main motive here (for both Gras and
Egan) is to find something new to say about Shakespeare when it is so
difficult to add anything truly new to what has already been said.

Since Egan has access to LION, I would ask him to look for examples of
"twelve noon" for mid-day, or "twelfte" for "twelve" in Renaissance
texts.  If neither he nor anybody else can produce these examples then
Egan's and Gras ' case (already rather feeble) is weakened still
further.

Finally I would like to ask Egan to explain how the title "Midnight"
could be supposed to relate to the main themes of the play.  Certainly
it could be used as a description of the Belch and Malvolio sub-plot
(part of which takes place at such a time), but this is just a
sub-plot.  The notion of festive disorder associated with the festival
of "Twelfth Night", on the other hand, could apply equally well to the
cross-dressing confusions of the main plot and the disorder subscribed
to by Belch and inflicted upon Malvolio in the sub-plot.

Finally I would point to T. Craik's mention in his Arden edition of
Twelfth Night's appearance in Shakespeare's likely source material.
"Gl'Ingannati" contains in its prologue the phrase "The story is new and
taken from nowhere but their own industrious pates whence also are taken
your lots on Twelfth Night".  Craik does not like to think that this was
the source of the title, but there is at least a possibility that
Shakespeare was influenced by it.

The phrase "Twelve Night" for midnight, on the other hand, does not seem
ever to have existed.

Thomas Larque.
"Shakespeare and His Critics"
http://Shakespearean.org.uk

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Haylett <
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Date:           Saturday, 27 Oct 2001 16:44:02 +0100
Subject: 12.2461 Re: Sir Toby et al.
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2461 Re: Sir Toby et al.

>A pun on "12th night"
>then becomes available--alas I'm conceding ground here--and if the poet
>becomes sick of explaining the joke then, "what you will".
>
>Gabriel Egan

It is traditional to assume that 'What You Will' represents some kind of
throwaway attitude on Shakespeare's part, and that may be correct. But
the subtitle could be a bit deeper than that: it may refer us to the
situation in which many characters in the play are letting their 'wills'
(desires) loose. The absurd pretensions of Malvolio, Maria, Sir Andrew,
are matched by the hardly less absurd assumptions of some of their
'betters'. Viola relies on an immediate assessment of Orsino, which we
know to be poorly based. Olivia assumes she can live happily with
Sebastian, who she does not know. Orsino is supposed to suddenly turn
from self-obsession to a desirable catch.

All these absurdities are in tune with a Feast of Misrule, and the fact
that Twelfth Night is the end of the Feast, coupled with Feste's
worldly-wise final song, leaves us to conclude that the end of this play
is only the beginning of a season of disillusionment. It might even be
suggested that Malvolio (whose name might be seen as 'I will ill') will
be revenged when they all wake up to the life they have willed
themselves into in their fantasies.

Brian Haylett

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