Shakespeare-a-palooza: Late Night Twelfth Night Ramblings

Happy Shakespeare-a-palooza, Nerd Cactus fans! It’s finally here! Our official countdown to Stratford has officially begun, which means that C already has an alphabetized list of what to pack and I am on the verge of considering whether it is time to purchase a new carry-on sized suitcase… Hmm. If I do it’ll probably be t-minus one day away from takeoff. Clearly, our travel preparations are a tad different, but our anticipatory, pre-trip, pep blogs share the same “I’m ready to go” attitude. So welcome, one and all, to our first installment in this month’s all-Stratford, all-the-damn-time series of posts.

Today’s post is a little late, because I had a weird day. I intended to write this blog during an hour and a half Starbucks sit-down, but things went sideways, distractions occurred, and my blog did not get written. Alas, alack! Jk. ‘Tis a minor setback. Even if this post hits the interwebz after 12, it is written! All that being said, let us dilly dally no longer and make good haste! To the main event!

As C mentioned on Friday, we’ll actually be including a few non-Shakespearean plays in our lead-up to Stratford, but let’s keep it old school with a fun look at Twelfth Night and it’s treatment of a variety of different types of love. Best known as “the one She’s the Man is based on”, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is a veritable hodge podge of riotous mistaken identities and love triangles – maybe even a love octagon, because literally everybody is in love with somebody else who is in love with somebody else, etc… I’m not kidding, people, every major character in this play is beset with love or lust in some form or other. Also, it’s a twisty, turny loopy-do of orbiting plots: one being the Viola (Cesario), Orsino, and Olivia triangle, another being the mistaken love created by Sir Toby and Sir Andrew to facilitate revenge on Malvolio, and the last being the plight of Sebastian – who was drowned until using him as another plotline of mistaken identity seemed like the best way to play for laughs.

Twelfth Night  is very much a comedy, but, in my view, it also contains some interesting observations about love, and what love is – or becomes – based on a number of scenarios that seem to say “but what about this?”. There’s unrequited love turned to marital love, and dutiful love that never really takes off because it is forced, and there’s also mistaken love that somehow turns to genuine affection. There’s also lust as a response to believing another feels love. There’s just a lot of high-strung human emotion floating about in this play.

But with all the love that’s in this show, is there actually a true example of characters falling in love with one another? I’ll give you my honest opinion here: no. Out of every couple that ends up together (maybe with the exception of Sir Toby and Maria) at least one – if not both – have been desperately in love with someone else throughout the majority of the play. There’s a whole lot of transfer of passions going on and even those who remain true to their hearts’ desire (uh, I guess that would be Viola and… oh, yeah, nobody else) end up with a partner that seems either inappropriate and unbelievable. Viola may get Orsino in the end, but why she fell for him in the first place remains a mystery to me – he’s self-absorbed and kind of an ass – and his willingness to marry her in the end is kind of a weird result of having been “semi into the whole androgynous thing, but this works out better”. And Olivia marries the completely wrong guy when she meets Sebastian (so maybe she counts as having stayed true to “Cesario”) and he’s just like “yeah sure, not gonna try and argue this.” There are just a lot of questionable pairings.

I dunno, you guys, it may be a super fun goat-rodeo to watch as far as Shakespeare’s comedies go, but it does lack a sense of depth. Unless the depth is that love is completely unpredictable and often entered into rashly by stupid people… Oh, I see what he did there. Yeah… this is Shakespeare’s play about how love makes you a nitwit. Ok, I can live with that.

I’ll be back on Friday with more exciting Shakespeare-a-palooza!

A

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