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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: January ::
Malvolio and the Captain
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0045  Saturday, 26 January 2008

[1] 	From:	David Evett <
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	Date:	Thursday, 24 Jan 2008 16:06:52 -0500
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0039 Malvolio and the Captain

[2] 	From:	Andrew Wilson <
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	Date:	Friday, 25 Jan 2008 13:47:02 -0800
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0039 Malvolio and the Captain

[3] 	From:	Herb Weil <
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	Date:	Thursday, 24 Jan 2008 16:47:04 -0800
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0039 Malvolio and the Captain


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		David Evett <
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Date:		Thursday, 24 Jan 2008 16:06:52 -0500
Subject: 19.0039 Malvolio and the Captain
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0039 Malvolio and the Captain

Robert Projansky's list of disappearing older characters could be made 
longer, no doubt. The probable explanation is that the actors were 
needed for other roles; thus Voltemand might reappear as Reynaldo, the 
Priest, and an English Ambassador, and Adam as Sir Oliver Martext and 
then Hymen-the final scene of AYL requires a minimum of 13 actors, and 
would have stretched the company almost to the limit, though at places 
like the two Stratfords with large groups of actors to work with, modern 
productions often bring him on mute.

David Evett

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Andrew Wilson <
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Date:		Friday, 25 Jan 2008 13:47:02 -0800
Subject: 19.0039 Malvolio and the Captain
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0039 Malvolio and the Captain

The final plot twist, that the Captain is held in durance at Malvolio's 
suit, is a final artistic ornament in the play. It is not the icing on 
the cake, or the cherry on top of the icing. It is the unnoticed 
sprinkles thrown on top of the icing. That is my speculation.

A full explanation requires a detailed look at each character in the 
play, which I won't do here. I'll cut to the chase as best I can, 
leaving out loads of detail.

Twelfth Night is filled with characters who, rather than expose their 
true personas to the world, choose rather to go through life clinging to 
phony disguises, thus making their lives "a good voyage of nothing." 
They live in denial.

** Orsino disguises himself as [i.e. he deludes himself into believing 
he is] a super-refined aesthete in search of an arms-length trophy wife. 
But the truth is he seeks intimate companionship with a passionate 
individual who may or may not be good looking.

** Olivia deludes herself into thinking she [i.e. she disguises herself 
as a woman who] has no need for a man, or at best only needs a wimpy 
boy-man. But the truth is she passionately desires, and has a practical 
need for, a manly-man who is her equal (or perhaps even her better) in 
estate, years and/or wit.

** Antonio disguises himself as a disinterested, altruistic friend to 
Sebastian. But the truth is he loves Sebastian and is not honest enough 
to take "no" for an answer.

** Malvolio disguises himself as [i.e. he deludes himself into believing 
he is] a great landowner, a count. But, in fact, he is a steward.

** Sir Andrew disguises himself as [i.e. he allows others to induce him 
into thinking he is] simply the tallest man in Illyria, a respected 
fighting man, a successful wooer of ladies, an admired dancer, and a man 
of culture. Of course, none of this is true; he is below average in 
every respect.

** Toby disguises himself as [i.e. he deludes himself into thinking he 
is] a youthful profligate without a care in the world. But in truth, he 
is an aging alcoholic with the threat of penury staring him in the face.

** Viola literally wears a disguise. She clings to her false persona to 
the ludicrous, self-defeating extent of wooing another woman for the man 
she loves. Talk about a good voyage to nowhere!  Artistically she is the 
"sum it all up" person; she is the icing on the cake and the cherry on 
top. She does not have the over-the-top personality quirks of the 
others, and she is not self-deluded about her situation like they are. 
BUT, she commits the same error they all do: she puts on a disguise in 
order to run away from reality. Her disguise is the tangible, theatrical 
symbol for all the escapism going on in Illyria.

** Sebastian is the exception (that proves the rule). In his first 
scene, he casts off his disguise as Roderigo.

In act V, each character is forced to face the bogus-ness of their 
disguised personas. Some adjust happily to the new reality. Others 
adjust grudgingly to the new reality. Malvolio is the deepest in denial. 
On the level of realism, Malvolio's suit against the captain is 
completely unmotivated, unexplained and unnecessary. But on a poetic, 
artistic level it makes sense that Mr. Denial wants desperately to bar 
the captain from supplying Viola with her woman's weeds. Reality is 
Malvolio's enemy, and he doesn't want it to creep into his play. It is 
humorous, like a "Hail Mary" pass into the end zone, meant to be 
understood artistically, not as realism.

A final note. We can all agree that Malvolio's entrance onstage in act V 
is carefully timed for maximum drama. Shakespeare needs to get Malvolio 
onstage, in front of a large group of people, at just the right time. 
Imagine Shakespeare musing "I need an excuse for Olivia to order her 
steward onstage right here. Hum. What shall it be?" The answer is 
Malvolio's suit against the captain:

Duke:  Give me thy hand, / And let me see thee in thy woman's weeds.

Viola:  The captain that did bring me first on shore / Hath my maid's 
garments; he upon some action / Is now in durance, at Malvolio's suit, / 
A gentleman and follower of my lady's.

Olivia:  He shall enlarge him: fetch Malvolio hither. / And yet alas! 
Now I remember me, / They say, poor gentleman, he's much distract. (TN 
V.1.270-278)

Please, I am very interested in feedback.

Thanks,
Andrew Wilson

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Herb Weil <
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Date:		Thursday, 24 Jan 2008 16:47:04 -0800
Subject: 19.0039 Malvolio and the Captain
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0039 Malvolio and the Captain

 >Cary Barney writes of "the mysterious fifth act revelation
 >that the Captain is being held under arrest at Malvolio's
 >instigation."
 >
 >Doubtless there is a midden for a scholarly dig here, but
 >in performance -- why bother? Nobody onstage can tell
 >why the Captain is locked up and why doesn't really
 >matter, so why pluck something non-Shakespearean out
 >of thin air to explain the inexplicable to the audience?
 >Dramatically, his imprisonment obviously tends to subdue
 >sympathy for the ill-treated Malvolio and why elaborate on
 >it?
 >
 >While we have no reason to believe the Captain must be
 >kept offstage at the end of the play, he is another example
 >of a Shakespeare character, often one playable by an older
 >actor, who appears early or in just the first couple of acts
 >and then disappears. Such roles include Duncan, Gaunt,
 >Adam, Voltumand and Cornelius, the Soothsayer, the
 >Porter, and Brabantio. Was Shakespeare giving work to -
 >but making it easy on -- some older actor(s)?

Or creating more possibilities for doubling:

Herb Weil
Professor Emeritus
University of Manitoba

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