The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1647 Wednesday, 20 August 2003
Date: Tuesday, 19 Aug 2003 08:24:46 -0500
Subject: 14.1645 Re: Denouements of Forgiveness and Gender
Comment: Re: SHK 14.1645 Re: Denouements of Forgiveness and Gender
Geralyn Horton (on her way to the dancings) writes:
>I must say
>that although Orsino's death threats pass lightly among the cascade of
>revelations in Act 5 , they seem real and terrifying when one is on
>stage and facing them. Orsino is a dangerous man who believes that a
>sin against him is a capital offense, and that he is entitled to be both
>judge and jury. He can't revenge himself upon Olivia, whom he claims
>to love; so he proposes to take out his wrath on his powerless servant
>Cesario. "Leave her (or him) to heaven" is the only loving response to
>a failure of love. Were I Viola's brother, I would certainly try to
>talk my sister out of marrying Orsino.
Well, yes. Shakespeare certainly plays one of his comic-thrill games
here. But it doesn't necessarily mean that Orsino is a murderous thug.
For one thing, threats are not the same things as actions. Although many
murders are committed in (usually drunken) rages -- ask any homicide
detective -- Orsino gives no other indications of thuggery. He is a man
used to getting his own way who not only hasn't gotten it but has been
grossly betrayed and shamed by a young man whom he befriended and
trusted. While that does not justify murder, by what he knows he has
good reason to be very angry.
It is crucial that we remember that nobody knows that Viola is not
Cesario until a few minutes later. Her cover is still intact. If she
were indeed a young man, she/he could well expect to get thoroughly
pounded, if not actually racked, for playing such a dirty trick on the
Anyway, it's a wonderful last turn on the disguise game -- provided you
don't let it get too nightmarish.
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