2.3 TWELFTH NIGHT

TWELFTH NIGHT-BBC SHAKESPEARE COLLECTION.wmv:

When Viola lands in Illyria after a shipwreck, she believes her brother Sebastian is dead, and she needs not only protect herself as a woman but also to seek employment. Viola knows that the dangers to her reputation put her in too precarious situation, so she knows as a male (Cesario) everything will be easier and the most important thing, she will be able to survive. Now I have analysed some important facts which show us Viola’s evolution throughout the play. In square brackets are the minutes in which these dialogues take part in the film above produced by the BBC.

[0:03:30] Viola appears with a cloak which reminds me a nun. But soon she begins to ask:

‘What country, friends, is this?’

At first, she is confused and torment and she looks for her brother’s protection: ‘And what shall I do in Illyria? My brother, he is in Elyseum. Perchance he is not drown’d. What think you, sailors?’

Viola’s intelligence will become clear as the boat’s captain tells her some words which she will interpret correctly: ‘and to comfort you with chance, ASSURE YOURSELF…’

[0:04:32] Viola changes her speech’s tone, showing her witt: ‘Know’st thou this country?…Who governs her?’ and with more impudence   she asks: ‘What is his name?’

By chance Viola had heard about Orsino from her father and she knew he was a bachelor, so this fact awakened her interest. Only two minutes were enough to find a solution to her shipwreck and to survive in an unequal Renaissance society:

‘Conceal me what I am, and be my aid for such disguise as, haply, shall become the form of my interest. I’ll serve this duke. Thou shalt present me as an eunuch to him. It may be worth thy pain, for I can sing and speech to him in many sorts of music that WILL ALLOW ME VERY WORTH HIS SERVICE.’

These words show Viola very sure of herself and indeed she succeeds as another boy in Orsino’s court says: [0:12:28] ‘If the duke continue these favours towards you, Cesario, you are like to be much advanced.’

Throughout her speech Viola’s mind can not stop thinking and rushing about how to achieve Orsino’s love: [0:13:20] ‘Say I do speak with her, my lord. What then?… I’ll do my best to woo your lady.’ / [0:14:22] ‘Whoe’ er I woo, myself would be his wife.’

If we look closely in Viola’s dialogue (disguised all the time as Cesario) we can see how she yearns for education and some privileges only allowed to men at that time: [0:22:08] ‘I can say little more that I HAVE STUDIED, and that question’s out of my part.’ When Olivia asks for “his” parentage, Viola answers: [0:27:13] ‘Above my fortunes, yet my state is well. I am a gentleman.’

I would like to highlight that in this play not only Viola shows how intelligence women can be, but also Mary and Olivia. Olivia prefers Viola’s eloquence (Cesario) that Orsino’s petrarchan love full of rhetoricity and she says about Viola (Cesario): [0:28:09] ‘Thy tongue, thy face, thy limbs, actions, ans spirit, do give thee five-fold blazon…Not too fast, soft, soft. Unless the master were the man.’ After that, Olivia gives to Malvolio a ring to be delivered to Cesario; an action, from my point of view, very witty. Again Shakespeare shows the great capacity of women over men which Elizabethan society does not allow, so Viola, disguised as Cesario realizes how lucky are men and how easy is life for them:

[0:30:39] ‘I AM THE MAN!…Disguise, I see thou art a wickedness wherein the pregnant enemy does much. How easy is it for the proper-false in women’s waxen hearts to set their form. Alas, OUR FRAILTY IS THE CAUSE, NOT WE, FOR SUCH AS WE ARE MADE OF, SUCH WE BE. How will this fadge? My master loces her dearly, and I, poor monster, fond as much on him…What will become on this? As I am man, my state is desperate for my master’s love, as I am woman, now alas the day. What thriftless sighs shall poor Olivia breathe. O, time, thoo must untangle this, not I. It is too hard a knot for me to untie.’

In the film, Viola’s expression communicates calmness, optimism and even pleasure; it seems that she is enjoying with the situation.

As I have said before, not only Viola represents women’s intelligence, but also Olivia in some situations and Mary with her ruse against Malvolio: [0:41:55] ‘For Monsieur Malvolio, led me alone with him. If I do not gull him into a hayward, and make him a common recreation, do not think I have wit enough to be straight in my bed. I KNOW I CAN DO IT.’ / ‘Marry, sir, sometimes he is a kind of Puritan…the devil a Puritan that he is, or anything constantly but a time-pleaser, an affectioned ass that cons state without book and utters it in great sworths…and on that vice in him WILL MY REVENGE FIND NOTABLE CAUSE TO WORK.’ The plan: [0:42:49] ‘I shall drop in his way some obscure epistles of love…I CAN WRITE VERY LIKE MY LADY…’

So again we can see the topic of education and literacy very present to Mary, too.

Viola’s desperation about Orsino’s love reaches the top  when she tells him a false story, making clear that she is the only daughter of her father, so Orsino is presented to the audience as a bit silly from my point of view. He should have realized about Viola’s disguise and intentions: [0:52:20] ‘My father had a daughter loved a man, as it might perhaps, were I a woman, I should your lordship…She never told her love, but let concealment, like a worm; the loud feedon her damask cheek. She pinned in thought, and with and green and yellow melancholy, she sat like patience on a monument, smiling at grief. Was not this lore, indeed? We men may say more, swear more, but indeed, our shows are more than will, far still we prove much in our vows, but little in our love… I AM ALL THE DAUGHTERS OF MY FATHER’S HOUSE, AND ALL THE BROTHERS TOO, AND YET I KNOW NOT.’

Viola also realizes that the Fool is intelligent and knows much more things than the rest of people: [1:04:31] ‘This fellow’s wise enough to play the fool, and, to do that well, craves a kind of wit… It is a practice as full of labour as a wise man’s art, for folly, that he wisely shows, is fit, but wise men, folly-fallen, quite taint their wit.’

As the play progresses, I am amazed with Viola because she also highlights she knows languages and she answers Sir Andrew in the following way: [1:05:01] ‘Et vous aussi, votre serviteur.’

The play seems to turn into the usual position of women in society at the end. The first example of it is when Viola has to fight with Sir Andrew. She seems to start to weaken and she needs the God’s help as at the beginning of the film she needed her brother’s protection: [1:30:00] ‘Pray God defend me. A little thing would make me tell them how much I lack of a man.’

Finally, Shakespeare shows the women’s archetypal of Elizabethan society, I mean, looking for male’s protection and being marriage  their aim. So, Viola at the end expresses her feelings to Orsino and they get married: [1:50:27] ‘After him I love more these eyes, MORE THAN MY LIFE, more, by all more, than e’ver I shall love wife. If I do feign, you witnesses above punish my life for tainting of my love.’



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