Shakespeare’s Globe On Screen – Twelfth Night

The genesis of the original Globe Theatre is a story of intrigue, daring and initiative – an actor’s out-of-hours tale as dramatic as any portrayed on stage.

In his excellent book for children, Shakespeare – His Work and His World (beautifully illustrated by Robert Ingpen) Michael Rosen tells the tale like this:

‘It’s the middle of the night on the edge of London, a few days after Christmas Day, 1598. The River Thames is frozen over, snow is falling. The roofs of the timbered houses and the nearby fields are white with it. Four buildings stand higher than the nearby houses, shops, bowling-alleys, gambling houses and taverns – a windmill, a church and two theatres. One of the theatres is called the Curtain, and the other simply the Theatre….

.…tonight sixteen men are pulling down the Theatre. Two of them are brothers. They run a company of actors who put on plays, and with them there’s a builder and his workmen. As the men hurry about their work, it’s clear that what’s going on is secret and must be done as quickly as possible…. Two strangers arrive and start quizzing them. The workmen lie and say they are only taking down the parts of the building that are decaying…. But before long the men are taking the timbers across London Bridge to Southwark, where the theatre will be rebuilt and become known as one of the world’s most famous theatres: the Globe.’

'Shakespeare - His Work and His World' by Michael Rosen, Illustrated by Robert Ingpen

‘Shakespeare – His Work and His World’ by Michael Rosen, Illustrated by Robert Ingpen

Although James Burbage owned the Theatre, he leased the ground on which it stood – and the lease was due to expire at the end of 1597. The ground landlord, Giles Allen, seems to have seen this as his chance to make both money – and a manoeuvre that would satisfy his disapproval of theatrical productions. He raised the price of the lease to a sky-high level – and when negotiations failed, planned to pull down the Theatre and sell the materials. But, Burbage had discovered a clause in the original lease which allowed him to dismantle his theatre – and so he gathered his acting troupe to undertake the task under cover of a winter’s night…

Illustration by Robert Ingpen (dismantling the Theatre, 1598) - From 'Shakespeare - His Work and His World' by Michael Rosen

Illustration by Robert Ingpen (dismantling the Theatre, 1598) – From ‘Shakespeare – His Work and His World’ by Michael Rosen

As Michael Rosen points out, they were taking an enormous risk ‘…because if it can be proved that they are stealing, they will all be hanged and their severed heads put on show.’ These were people dedicated to their business, their livelihood, their autonomy – actors who claimed the world of the imagination, placed it in a Thames-side swamp and watched it grow…

Illustrations of The Globe Theatre by Robert Ingpen - From 'Shakespeare - His Work and His World' by Michael Rosen.

Illustrations of The Globe Theatre by Robert Ingpen – From ‘Shakespeare – His Work and His World’ by Michael Rosen.

…And all these centuries later, in 2013, on a sizzling Sunday at the beginning of July’s heat wave, it felt as if Burbage and Co. had been moving their theatre again – and had somehow cunningly contrived to set it up inside our local cinema…

Shakespeare’s Globe On Screen was like honey to a bee for my daughter and me. A strong enough lure for us to forsake one of the earliest sun-drenched afternoons of the summer, to sit in a darkened room – and happily travel to Illyria via the Globe’s 2012 production of Twelfth Night, directed by Tim Carroll.

Described as an ‘Original Practices production, exploring clothing, music, dance and settings possible in the Globe of around 1601,’ it was the first full all-male cast production of Shakespeare either of us had seen – and this experience, in itself, was like a direct, electric hook-up to the original presentations of his work. It highlighted all the more the complexities and emotional scope of all that cross dressing and gender disguise; the instances of a man falling in love with a woman disguised as a man, played by a man. And of a woman, played by a man, falling in love with a woman disguised as a man, played by a man. Situations that roll out like a series of magic carpets; layered with all the opportunities for both the fun and serious exploration of assumed and more latent aspects of sexuality and identity.

Mark Rylance was wonderful as Olivia – gliding demurely across the stage; stately, black-clad and – after her meeting with Cesario/ Viola – set simmering beneath corseted consonants, like verse ready to break free from the confines of its form.

Johnny Flynn as Viola/ Cesario was all at once innocent, knowing, bold, perplexed and heart-sore, lost in love. I was totally able to believe in the girl beneath the boy – even though the girl beneath the boy was – a man! The illusion and magic of the theatre – and Shakespeare’s manipulation of the power of the imagination – was brought to a pitch that fully referenced the play’s own relationship to the contemporary tools of its trade.

Paul Chahidi totally inhabited his role of Maria – catching every beat of comic timing (as well as glancing the darker undertones the audience’s way) on the delivery of each line, gesture and facial expression. He positively seethed as a woman biding the unleashing of her own powers.

Colin Hurley as Sir Toby Belch and Roger Lloyd Pack as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, were a double act made of that same cloth of comic timing and endearing humour – and of the casually draped darker and disturbing edges to their relationship, motivations and intentions. They were joined in this by my daughter’s favourite in the play – Peter Hamilton Dyer as Feste; wearing his part of Shakespearean Fool with that required demeanour of both familiar participant – and aloof, amoral onlooker; a kind of vessel for the looser, intangible, elusive, discordant, stranger aspects of the play’s atmosphere and pitch. In his wide eyes and melancholic, beautiful singing he underlined both the moral, philosophical questions, and the detachment of strings cut free from accountability.

Liam Brennan’s comic-petulant, earnest-shallow, affronted-romantic Orsino reminded me how every time I encounter his character I am worried by Viola’s choice – and see perfect sense in Olivia’s keeping her distance. The man is in love with love – and adrift in his own illusions. And, as this production suggests, perhaps he desires Cesario more than he desires Viola… But, of course (and as the play constantly reminds us) sexual attraction tends, for those involved, to lead to a complete bypassing of analytical scrutiny – and lights a mysterious touch paper that often burns out of kilter with surface awareness.

The comedy of the play was beautifully played by all – with both control and wonderful exuberance – and Stephen Fry came into his own as Malvolio. He wore the role with convincing comfort, and his both comic and hugely touching delivery of the scene in which he finds Olivia’s supposed letter, inspired an eruption of spontaneous applause from the onscreen audience – and heartfelt inner applause from us in the cinema. Fry’s portrayal of Malvolio’s very deep delight at the discovery that he is loved (‘I am happy!’) cut through the character’s pomposity, and formed a connection of heart-strung sympathy from the audience. And so, the most was made of Shakespeare’s revelation of the human beneath the character, intensifying the unease we feel in accepting any complicity in Sir Toby’s, Sir Andrew’s and Maria’s cruel schemes – though, the full impact of this unease did not come through until the end; reserved for then, and held back by the sheer force and beguilement of the comedy. We, as audience, are suddenly brought up short by our complicity – but, in this presentation of the play, not for too long. This was a production that emphasised the life-affirming pull of comedy – the subversive festivities of a Twelfth Night – and allowed the audience to run with it, to have our ‘cakes and ale,’ rather than tug us back with overly hard overtones of judgement. The unease and the darkness leave an aftertaste to mull over later…

And so, Theatre lives, breathes and finds its place, despite the ‘puritan’ negations of a Malvolio, or the likes of a theatre-demolishing Giles Allen. And, true to the traditions of Twelfth Night – the Feast of Fools – everything has been turned upside down. Through shadows and through light, through ‘the wind and the rain’ we have been led in a complex dance by the Lord of Misrule.

‘it raineth every day’ – and Life’s festive and mournful sides both have their need, their time – and their responsibilities.

‘…what is yours to bestow is not yours to reserve’ says Viola to Olivia.

Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?’ Sir Toby asks Malvolio.

What is love?’ Feste asks us…

Questions that, when we truly engage with them, can dismantle us – or at least challenge and dismantle our preconceptions – and can rebuild and rearrange and renew…

The experience of seeing a full Globe Theatre production at the cinema was definitely the next best thing to being there. The big screen brought us close to the actors and the action; the audience present at the recording seemed to draw us in as one of its own – and the vitality of sixteenth/seventeenth century music, colour, dance and spectacle typical of a Globe production, placed us under the magical illusion of actually being there. There was even a fifteen minute interval between Acts – for ice creams and loo breaks – just as if we were at the theatre.

My daughter and I relished the experience – and were both feeling on a “theatre-high” all evening afterwards. We’re now looking forward to seeing The Taming of the Shrew this month, when the Burbage brothers and Co. get up to their metaphorical dismantling tricks again – and move Shakespeare’s Globe back to our local cinema once more…

You can find details of the productions and check out cinema venues and times at the Shakespeare’s Globe On Screen website.

All the Globe 2012 season of plays – Twelfth Night, Henry V and The Taming of the Shrew will be available on DVD from the autumn.

Here’s a clip from Twelfth Night (Act II, Scene 2) with Stephen Fry as Malvolio and Johnny Flynn as Viola/ Cesario:

20 thoughts on “Shakespeare’s Globe On Screen – Twelfth Night

  1. Mel, what a delight to see you writing about this production of Twelfth Night. I saw it at the Globe last October and was entranced. Knowing my father loves the play (and having seen him play Malvolio in an amateur production a few years ago), I took him to see it as a surprise Christmas present after it transferred to the West End. Noticing it was on at the cinema a few weeks ago, I had to see it again. I love Shakespeare, but I do sometimes struggle with it, especially if I don’t know the play in question very well, and this was an eye-opening production for me. I hadn’t imagined anything could be so light, so easy. Not that Twelfth Night is without its darknesses, especially where Malvolio is concerned, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt three hours pass so swiftly. I marvel at Paul Chahidi’s Maria the more I think about it. There is such a wicked glint in his eye. How he injects so much cheek into a line like ‘bring your hand to the buttery-bar’ I cannot imagine. And Mark Rylance sweeping around the stage on casters. I think I could watch it an infinite number of times without tiring of it, and I’m delighted to see it is available on DVD. (P.S. Liebster post is in the pipeline…)

    • Gareth, so glad you enjoyed this post… What an amazing Christmas present for your father! Especially in light of his previous associations with the play… And how brilliant that you got to see it at the Globe – and in the West End (I’m deeply envious!) Like you, I could watch this production again and again – and, as soon as I can get my hands on the DVD, no doubt that’s exactly what I’ll be doing! My husband’s really keen to see it – so that’s an at home in front of the TV date, set for the future already!

      The chance to see it at the cinema, was a fantastic introduction to the play for my daughter. She starts her ‘A’ Level English literature course in September, and is already a Shakespeare nut (that’s m’girl! 🙂 ) – and this play totally worked its magic to cement that even further. She was completely entranced by Peter Hamilton Dyer’s portrayal of Feste. Like you, we keep marvelling at Paul Chahidi’s Maria. He was amazing. Oh, yes – I loved too all those layers of cheeky wit he brought to lines such as ‘bring your hand to the buttery-bar’ – he completely inhabited the life of the role on so many levels, didn’t he? We laughed so much throughout the play – all the slapstick, wicked glints, flights of wordplay and exuberance. And the brilliant use of the ‘box-tree’ was inspired! Mark Rylance on “casters” was hilarious! I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you talk about how the experience of the production was so light and easy – we couldn’t believe how time flew by as we watched, either! I think, as you say, the key was in that ‘eye-opening’ element – I can’t help thinking that this is how it would have been played in Shakespeare’s day; not just the costumes, music etc. – but the earthy, subversive delight of a festival – without losing sight of those darker elements that must hover around the deeply human implications of all the emotion and relationships and revelations of identity. And, whenever brilliant actors and directors get their hands on the text, they just illuminate so much – and every time I see a good production, I learn new angles of seeing – new things brought to the surface of Shakespeare’s words and meaning.

      Thanks for adding your thoughts here, Gareth – so lovely to chat about the play with you! (Looking forward to the Liebster post!)


  2. ‘Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?’ ‘Cakes And Ale’ – one of my favorite Somerset Maugham stories and proof that Shakespeare is everywhere.

    Checked the site, and it looks like we Americans are out of luck! But it was marvelous to see Stephen Fry in that clip!

    • Oooh – I love Somerset Maugham’s stories! I’ve not read ‘Cakes and Ale’ yet though. Must rectify that – I’ll check tonight to see if it’s in the collection of Maugham stories on my shelves. Yes, Shakespeare just inhabits the language, doesn’t he… and, quite literally, invented so much of it! So many of our sayings and colloquialisms; inspiring so many book titles and countless literary references throughout the centuries…

      Re. the lack of cinema showings of Twelfth Night in America – I’m wondering if that’s because the production will be transferring to Broadway in November. Maybe – if there are going to be cinema screenings in the U.S.A – they might be waiting for that production to finish first? That’s just a guess though… But, I did just have another look at the Globe website – and I see that the DVDs for both Twelfth Night and Henry V are actually already available to buy – and are playable in all regions. So you may still be in luck yet, Aubrey!

      • Cakes and Ale is full of charm and warmth, and is a great favourite of mine. The character of Edward Driffield is very clearly a fictional depiction of the aged Hardy, and it strikes me as a very affectionate depiction. I love the idea of “The Grand Old Man of Letters” who is lionised by the very literary community that had once reviled him, and who accepts it all with an amused resignation.

        • Himadri – you’ve just made me want to go and seek out Cakes and Ale straight away! A story featuring a depiction of my great favourite, Thomas Hardy – and filled with all the qualities you describe – is instantly, and hugely, appealing! I’ve just checked my collection of Somerset Maugham stories, and it’s not in there – so there’s nothing for it but to add it to the book shopping list! I’ve got a book token burning a hole in my pocket, and am hoping to make a visit to Toppings bookshop in Bath very soon. There are so many books I’d love to buy – so this precious chance to treat myself seems to be getting ever more elastic! I’ve decided to spend it on Peter Brook’s latest book about Shakespeare, The Quality of Mercy – but, maybe I’ll be able to justify stretching the token a bit further, and add some Somerset Maugham too!

          Thank you so much for your wonderful comment below about Twelfth Night. It’s such a delight to read your thoughts. It’s getting late now, and my husband is on holiday from work at the moment – so, online time’s a bit limited, but I’ll get back to you as soon as I can… In the meantime, just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your comments…

          All the best for now,


    • It is indeed – one and the same! I’ve just looked him up and found a Youtube clip of Johnny Flynn & the Sussex Wit and their facebook page etc. I wasn’t aware that, as well as being an actor, he is a singer, songwriter and poet too! An amazing amount of gifts and talents!

      It really was like a form of time travel to see this production – albeit via modern high definition technology! Reading the details of the Broadway transfer (via the link in my comment to Aubrey above) I see that, in the theatre, the production is ‘lit almost exclusively by the glow of 100 on-stage candles, adding to the intimate and authentic atmosphere.’ Sounds absolutely magical!

      • I’ve been meaning to try one of these cinema link-ups for ages and it sounds really worth the effort, though the real thing by candlelight would be amazing. I remember (decades ago!) the BBC showed Twelfth Night on Twelfth night and I think that contributed to being interested in old festivals and folklore… all the ‘Lord of Misrule’ aspects are really interesting. I always feel the real Twelfth Night should involve a feast and candlelight and dogs in Tudor ruffs. I don’t expect that would take off in Asda or Tesco though.

        I’m also keen to read Cakes and Ale now – never knew the Hardy connection! I had the old Penguin cover postcard on the wall for a while too, so no excuse for not reading it with a daily reminder…

        I saw Johnny Flynn play briefly at a music festival a couple of years ago but thought he was going to be one of those very glossily marketed artists – seemingly not. I expect that being multi-talented means there will be no critical respect given to him though!

        Some people’s energy and ability is awesome – it took me 15 minutes to decide what to have for breakfast this morning, never mind creating anything…

        • I don’t mean to overstate the Hardy connection in Cakes and Ale. While it is widely recognised that the elderly Driffield is indeed a portrait of the elderly Hardy, Driffield’s early life, and, especially, his first marriage (to Rosie Gann), has no bearing at all to Hardy’s early life, or to Hardy’s first marriage. But the elderly Driffield is presented as a man now feted by the very literary establishment that had once rejected him, and who, now past caring about such matters, accepts it all with an amused but resigned detachment. I find it a very endearing picture.

          • That looseness of connection – a nod towards Hardy, but not being rigidly biographical – sounds very, very appealing. I can imagine that such an approach to examining a literary phenomenon, would give Maugham’s work the widest breathing space for its own creative charms and intention. I read a couple of short online reviews of Cakes and Ale the other day, and I saw that some of the story is set in Kent – in Herne Bay, Whitstable, Canterbury and Faversham. All places I know very well – especially the latter two. Its appeal ever grows!

            All the comments on this post are so cheering to read – lots of chat about my favourites – Shakespeare, Hardy, feasting, fools, folklore, theatre and Twelfth Night etc… I reckon we should petition the BBC to screen Twelfth Night on Twelfth Night again (if the last time was decades ago, it’s well overdue!) I like the idea of a return to some of the folkloric, festival magic of the real Twelfth Night in our modern lives – including candlelight and ruffs for dogs (we’ll petition Asda and Tesco about that one too!) 🙂

  3. Those Robert Ingpen illustrations are delightful, aren’t they? I haven’t seen the book you mention, but I have sen (browsing in bookshops) various traditional children’s classics – Treasure island, The Wind in the Willows, A Christmas Carol – illustrated by Ingpen, and they are wonderful.

    The story of transporting the timber across the river is told as well in James Shapiro’s marvellous book “1599”. In that book, he re-creates the year as far as is possible given the documentary evidence we have. The focus is not on Shakespeare the person as such – we know very little about that – but about the social and political background, the theatres, the cultural environment, etc. The times are brought to life with a startling vividness.

    1599, Shapiro argues, was a turning point in Shakespeare’s creative life. Not only was there a new theatre – there seemed also to be a resurgence of Shakespeare’s creativity. The few preceding years had not produced too much worthy of note, but in 1599 alone, Shakespeare wrote “Henry V”, “Julius Caesar”, “As You Like It” (Shapiro’s own favourite, it seems), and “Hamlet”. What it was that stirred Shakespeare’s imagination back into action again after the lean years, we do not know.

    (Shapiro also argues that Shakespeare wrote two versions of “Hamlet”, and that one is a drastic revision of the other. What we read now is a composite edition of the Quarto and the Folio texts, but Shapiro thinks this leads to a text that Shakespeare himself had never intended, and that the two texts need to be read separately as two different versions.)
    “Twelfth Night” came after “Hamlet”, and, for me, it is sheer perfection. All the diverse elements – knockabout slapstick, courtly comedy, comedy of manners, grief, melancholy, cruelty, even the tragic – are held together in the most perfect equilibrium. It is nothing short of a miracle.

    There are times when I see it as a very black play. There are so many connections with the tragedies. As in “Hamlet”, the question of how we should remember the dead is very much to the fore. For instance, Viola, thinking her brother dead, hides her own identity, but plunges into life as someone else. (Not that it all necessarily ends happily for her: even though she clearly loves Orsino, she is silent at the end of the play: for the few hundred lines between Orsino proposing marriage to her and the final curtain, Viola speaks not a word. The comparison with Rosalind’s loquacious joy at the end of “As You Like It” could hardly be more marked.) Olivia, her brother really dead, tries to withdraw from life, but even in the very first scene in which we see her, is someone who obviously takes great pleasure in life. Sir Toby’s gulling of Sir Andrew reappears in much the same form in Iago’s gulling of Rodrigo in “Othello”. It is tremendously cruel, as indeed is the the trick played on Malvolio: it is hard to imagine anything more hurtful than the very public sexual humiliation meted out to him. And at the end, when the whole stage has cleared, Feste stays on to sing a sad song. An extra verse of this song appears in perhaps the greatest tragic scene of all, when the Fool in “King Lear” sings during the storm scene
    He that has and a little tiny wit—
    With heigh-ho, the wind and the rain—
    Must make content with his fortunes fit,
    Though the rain it raineth every day.

    Harold Pinter one said that, for him, the greatest single line in all literature was Sir Andrew’s “I was adored once too”. It really is utterly heartbreaking.

    But of course, while I do sometimes see the play as very dark, the play itself is always greater than our own interpretation of it.

    It is also such a beautiful, lyrical work. It includes two of my very favourite speeches – both given to Viola. There’s that heart-achingly beautiful “willow cabin” speech in her first meeting with Olivia (“Make me a willow cabin at your gate, and call upon my soul within the house…”); and there’s that speech to Orsino (“…she sat like Patience upon a monument, smiling at grief…”)

    (I may not have got those exactly right: I’m quoting from memory.)

    I missed the Globe performance. I’d have loved to have seen it. I did see a marvelous production by the English Touring Theatre, with Michael Cronin (remember the bearded builder in “Fawlty Towers”?) very, very good as Sir Toby Belch.

    Anyway, thanks for giving me an opportunity to chat about one of my favourite works!
    All the best for now,

  4. PS I’ve always wondered, by the way, when, near the end of “Othello”, Othello says over the dead body of Desdemona “Here is my journey’s end”, whether Shakespeare was thinking back on Feste’s song in which he sings “Journeys end in lovers’ meeting”. If so, it it an ironic reference? Or could Shakespeare be referring to some mystical state beyond death where “all losses are restored and sorrows end”?

    Or could it be that, in the words of Horatio, “‘Twere to consider it too curiously to consider it so”?

    • Himadri – Thank you so much for this wonderful comment. So sorry it’s taken me a while to reply. We received some family news a few days ago which has been keeping me very preoccupied and busy. Please forgive me if this reply proves to be gobbledygook – things are a bit of a whirl at the moment!

      It’s lovely to hear about the other examples of Robert Ingpen’s illustrations you’ve seen. I shall look out for those. In the Michael Rosen book above, Ingpen has created such marvellous illustrations of Shakespeare’s times, and of characters and scenes from his plays. There are dramatic and gorgeously atmospheric illustrations of moments from King Lear, The Tempest, Macbeth and Hamlet (to mention just a few) – and a wonderful pencil drawing of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – complete with Titania and Bottom (with ass’s head) and some wonderfully mischievous looking fairies. The book belongs to my daughter – but I tend to appropriate it from time to time 🙂 ; it’s such a treat to browse its text and pictures…

      James Shapiro’s 1599 has long been on my list of must-reads. Every time I see it in the bookshops, I remind myself I must buy a copy as soon as I have some spare pennies… I was totally gripped by Shapiro’s TV series The King and the Playwright about Shakespeare’s work during the Jacobean period. Shapiro is such an illuminating scholar. Going by his script and presentation of the TV series, I can imagine how vivid his writing must be. He brought such immediacy and depth and insight to his investigations of Shakespeare’s work and the context of its times. Truly fascinating stuff. As is that 1599 turning point in Shakespeare’s creative development. As you say, we’ll never know for certain what the catalysts were, despite all the theories… but, when these things happen, it tends to be the product of an almost intangible and complex alchemy of happenings and experience and opportunities…

      Interesting to read that As You Like It seems to be one of James Shapiro’s favourites. The first Globe production my daughter and I watched together (on TV – alas, we’ve yet to get the chance to go to Shakespeare’s Globe in person…) was As You Like It. She was completely beguiled by it – and loved Jaques. I remember well how it first beguiled me too. And that delight I felt when I was a teenager, and first met Jaques and Touchstone et al – that first fascination with the whole world of the play – and its exploration of so many enthralling ideas and questions.

      Twelfth Night is breathtaking, isn’t it… (one of my favourites). I loved reading your thoughts and insights about all its complex weavings of darkness and light, grief, comedy, tragedy, slapstick etc. I was reading bits and pieces of the introduction to The New Penguin edition of Twelfth Night recently, and I found this aspect of M.M. Mahood’s analysis particularly intriguing:

      “…Shakespeare keeps before us the two festive virtues of opportunism and generosity, as they are epitomized in Olivia’s own words (III.1.153):

      ‘Love sought, is good; but given unsought, is better.’

      The play evokes the festive virtues without preaching them. Nor is there any Christmas Book bonhomie, any exhortation to be jolly and join in, about this play with a Christmas title. In trying to define the mood of Twelfth Night, we should not look forward, anachronistically, to the cosy merry-making of Dingley Dell, but rather backwards in time to the Feast of Fools and other medieval revels. For in these survived, almost to Shakespeare’s own day, the second main aspect of ancient festivities; their ‘ritual abuse of hostile spirits’. Once we have grasped the spell-like, incantatory nature of such abuse, we can perhaps begin to respond to the baiting of Malvolio as an Elizabethan audience may have responded. It is not to be thought of as heartless practical joking, but as a form of exorcism; and this response lends piquancy to the scenes in which Malvolio is actually treated as a man ‘possessed’.”

      Mahood also writes how, true to the traditions of the topsy-turvy world of the Feast of Fools ‘the killjoy upstart Malvolio was placed at the mercy of Sir Toby much in the same way as crusty benchers had to submit, during the feasting, to the caprices of young law-students’.

      Just one aspect in Shakespeare’s – as ever – extremely complex presentation of any given situation or character, in all their widest scope of humanity; but this struck me as such an interesting aspect of the Elizabethan roots of the play’s larger world and context…

      The gulling of Sir Andrew by Sir Toby was an aspect in the Globe’s production that produced such a powerfully conveyed moment – a moment when the audience was brought up short, left for some seconds on a chilling cusp where comedy was viscerally abutted by heartbreak – in that final rebuttal of Sir Andrew by Sir Toby.

      I love all your thoughts connecting possible links and lines of thought running through various plays. I shall have to get back to you with ponderings on Feste’s song and Othello etc. Right now, my mind’s distracted by family stuff pressing for my attention – but the points you raise are so wonderful to contemplate. They deserve a time when I can fully formulate my thoughts, so I’ll try my best to find a moment when I can return to them…

      Thanks again, Himadri! Always such a pleasure to discuss Shakespeare with you…

      All the best for now,


      • Hello Melanie, please don’t feel the need to apologise! I know how very busy you are with so many things, and the family, naturally, comes before such trivial matters as blogging!

        As you’ve seen, I tend to take a very dark view of “Twelfth Night”, and perhaps miss out somewhat on the sense of fun, and on the delight in misrule and in anarchy.

        As ever, it’s a great pleasure to talk about these matters with you, but I’m sure we do so at greater leisure once things have settled down for you a bit. In the meantime, may i convey, as ever, my very best wishes.

        • Many thanks for your kind words, Himadri – they are very much appreciated.

          I love all your thoughts on the play. Twelfth Night’s darkness – the sense of grief, loss, the cruelties of life – and that seeping atmosphere of melancholy – is so tangible and affecting. In this play, the festive and the celebratory in life seems to both face down, and work with, the winter-dark of our days (and to give it a good old run-around!) – but a very palpable sense of the melancholy and the difficult ever lingers. Edginess and a dichotomy of merged elements persists. Shakespeare always gifts us such astonishing and beautiful complexity. It’s amazing how many windows to discovery are opened, allowing for so many angles to be illuminated, and for so many different approaches to staging the play…

          Looking forward to a return to delving deeper into all these questions, when time allows.

          Very best wishes,


  5. No space and time to reflect in any depth, but thank you, I loved Shakespeare in school and college and for many a year, but my connection is somewhat strained these days… Was wonderful to be reminded of the joys, sorrows and worldliness of his world…

    • So glad this post renewed old connections, Amanda… I think that, once Shakespeare touches our hearts and minds and lives, his influence keeps on echoing, and when we come into contact with his work again, it is as if we’ve never been away. All of life is there in his work – and the echoes and resonances run so deep, the recognition of the great truth and beauty contained in his words grasps us anew every time…

  6. What a wonderful piece Melanie – I simply ached to see this version of Twlefth Night, always my favourite too. It sounded just amazing, and your thoughts on it, and the insights too from your friends and commenters were so rich and profound. The video clip gave a tantalising taste, and of course that Elizabethan music goes straight to my heart, and I sometimes feel, my memories…

    • Valerie – I know just what you mean about that music… There is a kind of bone-deep sense of familiarity about it. An ultimate inheritance-soundtrack feel to its sound, because it is filled with so much that characterises our past, and also our living culture… Many thanks for your lovely words – I’m so glad that this post and the marvellous comments folk have added, took you on a happy journey through memories and thoughts of Twelfth Night – and through this wonderful production. I highly recommend getting hold of a copy of the DVD if you can (maybe one for the Christmas stocking!) It would be especially magical to watch it on Twelfth Night itself…

      I’m really looking forward to visiting your Robinson Crusoe post – just need a quiet window of time to settle down and enjoy – and I’ll be there!


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