Boozy Plays: Twelfth Night, or What You Will

Happy Friday, Nerd Cactus friends! Welcome back to this month’s pre-Stratford marathon, which we have loving named Shakespeare-a-palooza. Today’s boozy pairing is fueled by William Shakespeare’s comedy, Twelfth Night, or What You Will. Can we take a moment to talk about Shakespeare’s subtitle on this one, real quick? Like, what kind of “meh” moment was he having when he decided to plug on “or What You Will”. It’s the ultimate shoulder shrug. You get the feeling he maybe wrote this one for the money. Somebody was breathing down Bill’s neck going “comedies sell better, Will. Give in to the demand, Will.” So Will basically subtitled the thing, “Whatever”. Amazing.

Anyway, I gave you a brief rundown of the lunacy that occurs within this play. It’s your average Elizabethan comedy, full off mistaken identities, crossdressing, and weddings. As I mentioned, I don’t think this one is particularly deep and it’s definitely not among my favorites. Of course, knowing Stratford, they’ll find some way to make me love it. But I will never love Orsino. He’s a bit much… He’s the one who’s got the most memorable line in the show – “if music be the food of love, play on” – but that doesn’t mean he’s worth remembering. Was that mean? Ah, well.

The best adaptation of Twelfth Night – and C and I agree on this – is She’s the Man. Yes, the Amanda Bynes movie. No shame. Like I said, Shakespeare didn’t exactly pull out the stops with this one so, yeah, it was the perfect fodder for a silly teen movie. In any case, if you’ve seen She’s the Man you pretty much have an overview of the love triangles and crossdressing plots which take place in Twelfth Night. Or What You Will. Or Whatever….

In many ways Olivia and Orsino are whiny-ass bitches prone to melodrama and maybe should just end up together, but Shakespeare decides to kind of level them out by pairing them off with Viola and Sebastian. If you’ve seen even five minutes of the Kenneth Branagh version, you know how freakin’ melodramatic they are. I mean, to be fair, it’s written that way, but Jeeeeeezuz could they be anymore over-the-top? Orsino’s forever lamenting and Olivia has sworn off men for seven years in response to her brother’s death. I mean, mourning is nice and all, but what? Let us leave behind these characters. I like them not.

Viola’s story is a lot more fun because she’s a shipwreck survivor and dresses as a boy so she can make it on her own as a servant to Duke Orsino. She also acts as a go-between for Orsino and Olivia which, of course, leads to Olivia falling for her (as you may have guessed). Now, Viola has her fair share of drama too and, sadly, falls for Orsino’s terrible poetry, but she’s a more interesting character to follow and get invested in.

That being said, the pairing today is completely Viola-centric. It’s Viola’s Salty Dog, as recommended by Caroline Bicks, PhD and Michelle Ephraim, PhD: authors of Shakespeare, Not Stirred. The recipe is as follows:

Lime wedge

5 thyme sprigs

Juice of 1/2 a lime

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 ounces ruby-red grapefruit juice

2 ounces gin

Fine sea salt

Rim your glass with the lime wedge and dip it into the sea salt. Muddle 3 thyme sprigs, lime juice, and maple syrup. Fill the glass with ice and pour in grapefruit juice and gin. Garnish with remaining thyme. Enjoy!

I’ll see you salty dogs on Sunday! Happy drinking!



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