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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: October ::
Twelfth Night
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0401  Monday, 11 October 2010

[1]  From:      Brian Bixley <
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     Date:      October 4, 2010 3:36:09 PM EDT
     Subj:      Twelfth Night 

[2]  From:      John Briggs <
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     Date:      October 4, 2010 9:01:41 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0386  Twelfth Night
 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Brian Bixley <
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Date:         October 4, 2010 3:36:09 PM EDT
Subject:      Twelfth Night 

I am, I suppose, to blame for the way list members have responded to my request for 
"essential, accessible readings for Twelfth Night" by focusing on the accessibility 
issue, perhaps because I wrote "I stress accessible," meaning that it wasn't much 
use suggesting texts that it was going to be near-impossible for me to find. I am 
very grateful for the several suggestions about accessibility I have received, but 
accessibility becomes a problem only after the issue of "essential' has been 
determined. Surely, some list members teach, have taught, or have a special 
enthusiasm for Twelfth Night, and could spare a moment to share their experience and 
wisdom with me.

Brian Bixley

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         John Briggs <
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Date:         October 4, 2010 9:01:41 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0386  Twelfth Night
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0386  Twelfth Night

On Brian Bixley wrote:

>Would list members be so kind as to suggest essential, accessible readings for
>Twelfth Night?

There's an awful lot of nonsense written about "Twelfth Night", so the introductions 
to the editions is the best place to start, particularly Keir Elam's Arden3 as the 
most up-to-date. But that doesn't entirely supersede Lothian & Craik's Arden2 (1975) 
with its very sensible introduction. I found Warren & Wells's Oxford edition (1994) 
a bit lightweight. Molly Mahood's Penguin Shakespeare edition (1968) is still useful 
for its commentary, and for the appendix on the music which everyone copies.

I was somewhat underwhelmed by the introduction to Elam's Arden3. He seems to cover 
most of the issues in the recent literature, but doesn't really reach conclusions or 
draw the threads together: you need to do your own thinking. His really big omission 
is the work of Juliet Dusinberre: the sensitive handling of the gender issues 
relating to cross-dressing boy actors in her Arden3 "As You Like It" (2006) makes it 
essential reading. I rather wish that she had also done the Arden3 "Twelfth Night". 
Her "Boys becoming women in Shakespeare's plays" (1999) is also essential reading, 
and is (fairly) readily available on the Internet.

By contrast, Elam's own interest (castration) is remarkably unfruitful: Viola 
referring to herself as a eunuch in 1.2 is probably no more than a reference to the 
play being a Terentian comedy (characteristically, Elam gives this information but 
doesn't follow it up.) Yes, the "Some are born great" letter derives from the 
"Eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven" passage (Matthew 19.12), but Shakespeare used 
the Bishops' Bible where the word is "chaste": the thought of Malvolio being "born 
chaste" is hilarious.

(Presumably, "Some Like It Hot" is the answer to "As You Like It"?)

John Briggs


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