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There are 216 critical essays on Twelfth Night.

Critical Essays on Twelfth Night
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Critical Essay by Keir Elam
19,437 words, approx. 65 pages
In the following essay, Elam uses Viola's reference to her cross-dressing, in which she states she will play the role of a eunuch, as an entry point for discussing the cultural history of castration as it appears in literature and the theater.
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Critical Essay by Keir Elam
19,437 words, approx. 65 pages
In the following essay, Elam uses Viola's reference to her cross-dressing, in which she states she will play the role of a eunuch, as an entry point for discussing the cultural history of castration as it appears in literature and the theater.
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Critical Essay by Roger Warren and Stanley Wells
17,830 words, approx. 59 pages
In the following excerpt, Warren and Wells survey Twelfth Night's setting, sources, themes, and major characters. The critics' discussion is often informed by insights gleaned from twentieth-century stagings of the play.
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Critical Essay by Roger Warren and Stanley Wells
17,830 words, approx. 59 pages
In the following excerpt, Warren and Wells survey Twelfth Night's setting, sources, themes, and major characters. The critics' discussion is often informed by insights gleaned from twentieth-century stagings of the play.
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On Not Being Deceived: Rhetoric and the Body in Twelfth Night
15,838 words, approx. 53 pages
Lorna Hutson, Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London Elder Loveless. Mistres, your wil leads my speeches from the purpose. But as a man—
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Critical Essay by Irene G. Dash
15,698 words, approx. 52 pages
In the essay below, Dash stresses the similarities between Viola and Olivia as young, single, upper-class women who, for a brief period, challenge patriarchal restraints on female independence. She also calls attention to the textual alternations put in place by generations of theatrical directors which have minimized the difficulties Viola and Olivia face as they try to resolve the tension between erotic desire and the norms of society.
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Cristina Malcolmson
13,537 words, approx. 45 pages
In the essay below, Malcolmson explores the links between gender and social class in Twelfth Night.
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Critical Essay by Karen Greif
12,499 words, approx. 42 pages
In the essay below, Greif traces the evolution of Feste in twentieth-century productions ofTwelfth Night. She contends that Feste has become an alienated figure, who is profoundly aware of human frailty and the transience of human existence.
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Critical Essay by Michael Shapiro
12,459 words, approx. 42 pages
In the following essay, Shapiro investigates Twelfth Night's exploration of sexual identity within the context of Elizabethan theatrical portrayals of sexual and emotional intimacy between men and between women.
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Critical Essay by Casey Charles
11,676 words, approx. 39 pages
In the essay below, Charles maintains that Twelfth Night critiques Renaissance notions of masculinity and femininity, demonstrating that the dualism of homosexuality and heterosexuality is a social construct. He calls particular attention to the significance of Viola's cross-dressing, the instances of same-sex attraction between Viola and Olivia as well as Antonio and Sebastian, and the play's ending—which, in his judgment, subverts the notion of stable sexual and gender differences.
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Gender Trouble in Twelfth Night
11,602 words, approx. 39 pages
Casey Charles, University of Montana The emergence of queer studies in the academy has led to many influential rereadings of Renaissance works, including those of Shakespeare.1 While Twelfth Night continues to be one of the major textual sites for the discussion of homoerotic representation in Shakespeare, interpretive conclusions about the effect of same-sex attraction in this comedy are divided, especially in light of the natural "bias" of the heterosexual marriages in act 5....
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Critical Essay by Hugh Hunt
11,560 words, approx. 39 pages
In the following essay, Hunt explores the directorial issues that informed his production ofTwelfth Night,focusing in particular on balancing the play's lyrical and comic elements, setting and costume, and the handling of the major characters.
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Critical Essay by Michael Mangan
11,215 words, approx. 37 pages
In the following essay, Mangan focuses on Shakespeare's extensive reworking of themes, characters, and situations used in Twelfth Night, noting that Shakespeare revised his previous attitudes toward many of the ideas explored in the play.
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Critical Essay by John Kerrigan
10,719 words, approx. 36 pages
In the following essay, Kerrigan studies Twelfth Night within the context of the Renaissance conventions regarding secrecy and gossip, finding that gossip is a means—both in early modern society and in the play—of maintaining social bonds. Kerrigan also discusses the affinity between Cesario and Malvolio, noting that as servants both characters are expected to be discreet.
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Critical Essay by John Kerrigan
10,719 words, approx. 36 pages
In the following essay, Kerrigan studies Twelfth Night within the context of the Renaissance conventions regarding secrecy and gossip, finding that gossip is a means—both in early modern society and in the play—of maintaining social bonds. Kerrigan also discusses the affinity between Cesario and Malvolio, noting that as servants both characters are expected to be discreet.
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Critical Essay by Edward Cahill
10,629 words, approx. 35 pages
In the essay that follows, Cahill examines the way in which the plot and subplot of Twelfth Night operate on both psychological and social levels, stating that the main plot suggests a fantastical realm in which the aristocracy experiences a great deal of emotional freedom, compared to the subplot's historical specificity and rootedness in Elizabethan social relations.
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Critical Essay by Edward Cahill
10,610 words, approx. 35 pages
In the following essay, Cahill offers a psychoanalytic reading of Malvolio in Twelfth Night, highlighting his narcissism and painful identity crisis as well as his thwarted and obsessive desires for sexual, social, and personal fulfillment.
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Critical Essay by Edward Cahill
10,610 words, approx. 35 pages
In the following essay, Cahill offers a psychoanalytic reading of Malvolio in Twelfth Night, highlighting his narcissism and painful identity crisis as well as his thwarted and obsessive desires for sexual, social, and personal fulfillment.
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Critical Essay by Donald Sinden
10,347 words, approx. 35 pages
In the following essay, Sinden analyzes his performance as Malvolio for Barton's 1969-70 production of Twelfth Night.
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Critical Essay by Michael Billington
9,698 words, approx. 32 pages
In the following essay, Billington presents a stage history of Twelfth Night, highlighting notable productions and performances, as well as critical reaction to both.
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Critical Essay by Laurie Osborne
9,453 words, approx. 32 pages
In the following essay, Osborne studies the ways in which Trevor Nunn's film adaptation of Twelfth Night adopts a heavy-handed approach to film editing and textual rearrangement in order to produce the effect of character continuity.
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Critical Essay by Laurie Osborne
9,453 words, approx. 32 pages
In the following essay, Osborne studies the ways in which Trevor Nunn's film adaptation of Twelfth Night adopts a heavy-handed approach to film editing and textual rearrangement in order to produce the effect of character continuity.
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Critical Essay by Paul Dean
8,307 words, approx. 28 pages
In the following essay, Dean analyzes Twelfth Night as the union of Renaissance Platonism and Augustinian theology, contending that Shakespeare employed the device of twins in order to explore the notion that two individuals are united as one through love, a concept that was understood by Neoplatonists to be analogous to the doctrine of the Trinity.
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Critical Essay by Paul Dean
8,307 words, approx. 28 pages
In the following essay, Dean analyzes Twelfth Night as the union of Renaissance Platonism and Augustinian theology, contending that Shakespeare employed the device of twins in order to explore the notion that two individuals are united as one through love, a concept that was understood by Neoplatonists to be analogous to the doctrine of the Trinity.
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Critical Essay by Larry S. Champion
8,270 words, approx. 28 pages
In the following essay, Champion argues that Twelfth Night features some of Shakespeare's most well-developed comic characters whose true but hidden identities are revealed over the course of the drama.
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Critical Essay by Larry S. Champion
8,270 words, approx. 28 pages
In the following essay, Champion argues that Twelfth Night features some of Shakespeare's most well-developed comic characters whose true but hidden identities are revealed over the course of the drama.
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Critical Essay by Angela Hurworth
8,196 words, approx. 27 pages
In the following essay, Hurworth explores the representation of deception, or gulling, in Twelfth Night. Hurworth highlights the links between criminal deception as it is described in Elizabethan narratives of the “underworld” and the deception found in the play.
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Critical Essay by Angela Hurworth
8,196 words, approx. 27 pages
In the following essay, Hurworth explores the representation of deception, or gulling, in Twelfth Night. Hurworth highlights the links between criminal deception as it is described in Elizabethan narratives of the “underworld” and the deception found in the play.
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Critical Essay by Geoffrey H. Hartman
8,108 words, approx. 27 pages
In the following essay, Hartman examines Shakespeare's use of poetic language, punning, and wordplay in Twelfth Night.
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Critical Essay by Geoffrey H. Hartman
8,108 words, approx. 27 pages
In the following essay, Hartman examines Shakespeare's use of poetic language, punning, and wordplay in Twelfth Night.
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Critical Essay by Jörg Hasler
8,047 words, approx. 27 pages
In the essay below, originally published in 1974, Hasler analyzes the influence of Shakespeare's earlier comedies on the last scene of Twelfth Night.
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Critical Essay by F. B. Tromly
7,798 words, approx. 26 pages
In the following essay, Tromly suggests that folly is a positive force in Twelfth Night, one that allow the characters to come to terms with life by learning to accept “delusion, vulnerability, and mortality.”
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Critical Essay by F. B. Tromly
7,798 words, approx. 26 pages
In the following essay, Tromly suggests that folly is a positive force in Twelfth Night, one that allow the characters to come to terms with life by learning to accept “delusion, vulnerability, and mortality.”
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Richard A. Levin
7,605 words, approx. 25 pages
In the following essay, Levin maintains that Viola has an unromantic view of love, a remarkable ability to handle crises, and a willingness to manipulate both Olivia and Orsino to achieve her goals.
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Critical Essay by John Astington
7,367 words, approx. 25 pages
In the following essay, Astington explores the characterization of Malvolio in terms of the tension between paganism, Puritanism, and traditional Christian viewpoints in Twelfth Night. The critic compares Malvolio's humiliation to the mockery, exposure, and punishment of lust that was frequently a focus of traditional English folk festivals.
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Critical Essay by Thad Jenkins Logan
7,362 words, approx. 25 pages
In the following essay, Logan claims that Twelfth Night—despite its ostensible depiction of a festive and happy resolution—contains glimpses of the darker side of human desire.
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Critical Essay by Thad Jenkins Logan
7,362 words, approx. 25 pages
In the following essay, Logan claims that Twelfth Night—despite its ostensible depiction of a festive and happy resolution—contains glimpses of the darker side of human desire.
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Double Dating
6,818 words, approx. 23 pages
Laurie Osborne, Oakland University/Colby College Simultaneity and coincidence are the essential features which connect Viola and Sebastian in Twelfth Night. Twins, after all, are born at the same time and coincide in one womb. Indeed, Sebastian identifies himself as Viola's twin, rather than merely her brother: "He [Sebastian of Messaline] left behind him myself and a sister, both born in an hour: if the heavens had been pleased, would we had so ended!"1 Though Viola never re...
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Critical Essay by Cynthia Lewis
6,783 words, approx. 23 pages
In the following essay, Lewis contends that Antonio, rather than Viola, is the moral center of Twelfth Night, but acknowledges that the play is principally concerned with Viola's moral development.
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Critical Essay by Cynthia Lewis
6,783 words, approx. 23 pages
In the following essay, Lewis contends that Antonio, rather than Viola, is the moral center of Twelfth Night, but acknowledges that the play is principally concerned with Viola's moral development.
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Critical Essay by Marla F. Magro and Mark Douglas
6,751 words, approx. 23 pages
In the following essay, Magro and Douglas analyze the treatment of gender issues in Trevor Nunn's 1996 film adaptation of Twelfth Night, and maintain that Nunn's production suppresses the play's homosexual aspects.
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Critical Essay by Marla F. Magro and Mark Douglas
6,741 words, approx. 23 pages
In the following essay, Magro and Douglas analyze the treatment of gender issues in Trevor Nunn's 1996 film adaptation of Twelfth Night, and maintain that Nunn's production suppresses the play's homosexual aspects.
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Critical Essay by Marcus Cheng Chye Tan
6,735 words, approx. 23 pages
In the following essay, Tan discusses the relationship of music to Twelfth Night's theme of sexual ambivalence.
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Critical Essay by Marcus Cheng Chye Tan
6,727 words, approx. 22 pages
In the following essay, Tan discusses the relationship of music to Twelfth Night's theme of sexual ambivalence.
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Critical Essay by Ralph Berry
6,521 words, approx. 22 pages
In the following essay, Berry examines the means by which Shakespeare manipulates audience perceptions of the characters in Twelfth Night.
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Critical Essay by Karen Robertson
6,461 words, approx. 22 pages
In the following essay, Robertson focuses on the gulling scene (Act III, scene iv) in Twelfth Night, emphasizing the rarity of a revenge perpetrated by a woman. She asserts that Maria's literacy skills as well as her shrewd understanding of Malvolio's vulnerability are hallmarks of a person capable of challenging established orders of social hierarchy.
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Critical Essay by Lydia Forbes
6,140 words, approx. 21 pages
In the following essay, Forbes examines Shakespeare's vivid character portraits in Twelfth Night, including the self-assured and charming Viola, the courageous and forthright Sebastian, the narcissistic and self-serving Malvolio, and the bawdy, witty, and wise Feste.
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Critical Essay by Lydia Forbes
6,140 words, approx. 21 pages
In the following essay, Forbes examines Shakespeare's vivid character portraits in Twelfth Night, including the self-assured and charming Viola, the courageous and forthright Sebastian, the narcissistic and self-serving Malvolio, and the bawdy, witty, and wise Feste.
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COMPARISONS AND OVERVIEWS
5,896 words, approx. 20 pages
In the following excerpt, Craik comments on Twelfth Night in performance, focusing his attention on various theatrical interpretations of setting, costume, character, and scene.
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Critical Essay by Alice Rayner
5,864 words, approx. 20 pages
In the following essay, Rayner examines the moral dimensions of appetite, virtue, and love in Shakespeare's comedy Twelfth Night.
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Critical Review by William Archer
5,787 words, approx. 19 pages
I. Towards the close of 1601, or perhaps a little earlier, a new play named Twelfe Night Or what you will, was announced on the placards of the Blackfriars Theatre. It was by the most popular playwright of the time, and was doubtless looked forward to with interest by the playgoing world. Eccentric titles were the order of the day, and this one promised an airy comedy, after the fashion of a fantasy by the same author, which had perhaps preceded it in the spring of the year—As You Like It, ...
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Critical Essay by M. E. Lamb
5,722 words, approx. 19 pages
In the following essay, Lamb studies Shakespeare's use of internalized metamorphosis in his representation of Orsino and Olivia, as well as his application of “Ovidian” rhetoric in Twelfth Night.
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Joan Hartwig
5,502 words, approx. 18 pages
In the essay that follows, Hartwig contends that Feste helps illuminate the discrepancy between human will and Providence in Twelfth Night and proposes that Feste's enigmatic final song emphasizes the ambiguities of human experience—which is neither as grim as the clown's pessimistic verses nor as blissful as romantic comedy.
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Critical Essay by A. B. Taylor
5,426 words, approx. 18 pages
In the following essay, Taylor details Shakespeare's reshaping of the Narcissus myth from Ovid's Metamorphoses in the Olivia-Viola-Orsino relationship of Twelfth Night.
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Critical Essay by Lisa Jardine
5,422 words, approx. 18 pages
In the following essay, Jardine examines the treatment of crossdressing in Twelfth Night, as well as the relationship between economic dependency and sexual availability in early modern England.
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Critical Essay by Camille Slights
5,408 words, approx. 18 pages
In the following essay, Slights maintains that Twelfth Night illustrates the thematic principal of reciprocity as the foundation of successful human relationships.
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Critical Essay by Camille Slights
5,408 words, approx. 18 pages
In the following essay, Slights maintains that Twelfth Night illustrates the thematic principal of reciprocity as the foundation of successful human relationships.
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Critical Essay by J. A. Bryant, Jr.
5,389 words, approx. 18 pages
In the following essay, Bryant asserts that Twelfth Night is an iconoclastic work that challenges the reassuring conventions of romantic comedy.
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Critical Essay by Douglas E. Green
5,180 words, approx. 17 pages
In the following essay, Green discusses the portrayal of love and gender in Twelfth Night, maintaining that while the play exposes the narcissism and self-centeredness of masculine love, its ending—with Viola still costumed as Cesario—reinforces the idea that men are the only trustworthy objects of desire.
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Critical Essay by John Russell Brown
5,141 words, approx. 17 pages
In the following essay, originally published in 1966, Brown investigates differing approaches to set design and character portrayal in Twelfth Night
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Critical Essay by Elizabeth Story Donno
5,118 words, approx. 17 pages
In the excerpt below, Donno traces the progress of the play's dramatic action and discusses the principal characters. Although she acknowledges some discrepancies and inconsistencies in the story, she applauds Shakespeare's treatment of the complicated plot.
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Critical Essay by Jane K. Brown
4,989 words, approx. 17 pages
In the following essay, Brown contends that Twelfth Night has two plots, one ruled by Olivia and one ruled by Orsino. These plots, argues Brown, are dramatized differently and correspond to two distinct worlds within the play.
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Critical Essay by Elias Schwartz
4,839 words, approx. 16 pages
In the following essay, Schwartz presents Twelfth Night as an example of “festive” comedy, in which the atmosphere of merriment expresses a vision of human life that focuses on life's joy, not its limitations. Schwartz additionally contrasts festive comedy with satiric comedy, emphasizing that the play should not be viewed as satire.
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Critical Essay by Elias Schwartz
4,839 words, approx. 16 pages
In the following essay, Schwartz presents Twelfth Night as an example of “festive” comedy, in which the atmosphere of merriment expresses a vision of human life that focuses on life's joy, not its limitations. Schwartz additionally contrasts festive comedy with satiric comedy, emphasizing that the play should not be viewed as satire.
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Critical Essay by Robert Wilcher
4,783 words, approx. 16 pages
In the following excerpt, Wilcher asserts that, in contrast to the more conventional clowns of Shakespeare's earlier comedies, Feste is a more fully human character.
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Critical Essay by Zoë Wanamaker
4,717 words, approx. 16 pages
In the following essay, Wanamaker discusses her performance as Viola in John Caird's Production of Twelfth Night.
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Critical Essay by Maurice Hunt
4,702 words, approx. 16 pages
In the following essay, Hunt discusses the attitudes toward providence expressed by various characters in Twelfth Night, as well as the play’s satirical treatment of Puritanism.
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Critical Essay by Ralph Berry
4,212 words, approx. 14 pages
In the following essay, Berry examines the evolution of Twelfth Night in production, describing a move from the festive and comic stagings of nineteenth and early twentieth-century productions to the darker interpretation of modern directors.
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Critical Essay by Charles H. Shattuck
4,195 words, approx. 14 pages
For 1893 Daly determined to surpass all his previous Shakespearean accomplishments: in Twelfth Night he found stuff that appealed with extraordinary intensity to his "creative" instincts. He disassembled the play and rebuilt it, cleansed it of every grossness, doubled the amount of music that Shakespeare called for (but canceled that too gloomy song "Come away death"), hired Graham Robertson to costume it in the high esthetic mode, and invented the most striking scenic effects, ...
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Critical Essay by Peter Thomson
4,054 words, approx. 14 pages
In the following essay, Thomson links the music of Twelfth Night—its lyricism as well as its musical interludes, ballads, and catches—to the prominence of hypothetical speeches by various characters, contending that the multiple “if” clauses in the play are part of Shakespeare's orchestration of the dialogue.
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Critical Essay by René Girard
3,720 words, approx. 12 pages
In the essay below, Girard evaluates Orsino's and Olivia's notions of human love and characterizes both characters as pseudo-narcissists. The critic maintains that in their twin obsessions with mimetic desire, they are identical personalities, each pursuing an inaccessible object and thus avoiding the disenchantment that must occur when desire is satisfied.
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Critical Essay by Harry Levin
3,504 words, approx. 12 pages
In the essay below, originally published in 1976, Levin compares and contrasts the main plot and subplot of Twelfth Night, describing Malvolio as the star of the underplot.
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Critical Essay by D. J. Palmer
3,435 words, approx. 12 pages
In the following essay, Palmer examines Shakespeare's adaptation of Ovid's Echo and Narcissus myth in Twelfth Night.
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Critical Essay by Peter Hall
3,096 words, approx. 10 pages
In the following essay, originally published in 1966, Hall describes his handling of Twelfth Night on the stage, commenting that it is "impossible to cut a word" of the play.
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Critical Essay by Ngaio Marsh
3,024 words, approx. 10 pages
In the following essay, Marsh discusses his 1951 staging of Twelfth Night in the Antipodes, focusing on the elements of characterization and visual presentation as they relate to the tone of the play.
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Critical Essay by David Willbern
2,959 words, approx. 10 pages
In the following essay, Willbern relates Malvolio and his downfall to the play's theme of festivity.
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Critical Essay by David Willbern
2,959 words, approx. 10 pages
In the following essay, Willbern relates Malvolio and his downfall to the play's theme of festivity.
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Critical Essay by Arthur Colby Sprague
2,923 words, approx. 10 pages
In the following excerpt, Sprague examines the handling of stage business in various productions of Twelfth Night.
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Critical Essay by John Russell Brown
2,846 words, approx. 10 pages
In the essay below, Brown illuminates issues of casting, set design, and stage business in Twelfth Night, and comments on selected stagings of the play.
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Critical Review by Caryl Brahms
2,622 words, approx. 9 pages
I Wish I could quote the whole of Hazlitt's analysis of the character of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, the whole of Agate's Brief Chronicle of Miss Jean Forbes-Robertson's Viola (and of that I would sacrifice the rest, if need be, for the three words in which this great critic lights a candle to her quality for all time: "This grave baby"). I wish that I had read CE . Montague for your delight. And that good crusty (in the sense that he will surely have produced som...
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STAGING ISSUES
2,559 words, approx. 9 pages
Granville-Barker was a noted actor, playwright, director, and critic who, in his productions of Shakespeare's plays, emphasized simplicity in staging, set design, and costume. In the following essay, originally published in 1912, he provides an account of how Twelfth Night should be staged and acted.
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Critical Review by William Winter
2,236 words, approx. 8 pages
"I'll serve this Duke." In those simple words the bereaved and shipwrecked Viola, who must begin life anew, reveals something more than her intention, because she also reveals the steadfast quality—blending patient endurance with buoyant self-control—of her lovely character. Concerning the Duke Orsino she knows only that he is reputed noble; that he is a bachelor, and that he loves the Lady Olivia, who is mourning the death of her father and brothers, and will admit no on...
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Critical Review by Michael Bertin
2,184 words, approx. 7 pages
David Mamet's production of Twelfth Night opened with the sound of a distant flute. Orsino and Curio were leaning against a wall, and were lost in thought. The flute stopped and all was still as we experienced the vacancy of Orsino's expression and the stasis that engulfed him. Life without love, it seemed, was more than sad; it was plainly dull. The mood was right for the opening; both serious and laughable, it pulled us in as it offered a perspective. Mamet was careful not to rush or force ...
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Critical Review by William Archer
2,110 words, approx. 7 pages
At last, at last! The long series of disappointments has ended at last, and we have to thank Mr Daly for an evening of rich and keen, if not absolutely unmixed, enjoyment. The performance of Twelfth Night has the one supreme merit which, in a Shakespearean revival, covers a multitude of sins—it really "revives" the play, makes it live again. There is nothing mechanical or academic about it. We feel we are in a live playhouse, not a historical museum. Not that I, personally, object to s...
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Critical Review by Richard David
1,915 words, approx. 6 pages
For some years before the war there was one theatre in England, and perhaps only one, which could be confidently relied upon to produce Shakespeare for Shakespeare's sake—the Old Vic in the Waterloo Road. When in 1941 the building was damaged by bombs, the company moved to another theatre, in London's west end; but though there were still individual productions of distinction and star performances of particular roles, something of the special glory of the Old Vic seemed to evaporate wi...
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Critical Review by Rosamond Gilder
1,805 words, approx. 6 pages
With a Presidential campaign behind us and preparedness ahead, with Europe's capitals in flames and war spreading like an insane octopus all over the habitable globe, Broadway takes time off for comedy, more comedy, nothing but comedy. As though fearful lest the dark thoughts that shadow us by day, that blacken newspaper headlines and blare at us through the air, should cross the threshold of the twenty-odd playhouses now open along Broadway, producers, authors, musicians and actors have united in a...
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Critical Essay by Peter Thomson
1,772 words, approx. 6 pages
Twelfth Night was Peter Gill's first directing assignment for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and is unlikely to be his last. Stratford needs this kind of work, easy of access to a theatrically uninquisitive audience, and eager to display the talents of its leading actors. The Company had changed completely now that the first three plays had moved to London. That fine Stratford stalwart David Waller was Sir Toby Belch, but Jane Lapotaire (Viola), Frank Thornton (Sir Andrew Aguecheek), Patricia Hayes ...
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Critical Review by Peter J. Smith
1,753 words, approx. 6 pages
In its potted history of the Playhouse Theatre, the programme boasts that 1988 was the year in which "Jeffrey Archer, politician, novelist and playwright, acquires the controlling interest in the Playhouse". For those on the Left in England, Archer's threefold description might sound slightly exaggerated, perceived, as he is, as a Tory-party fundraiser and writer of potboilers, but, be that as it may, he is now the controlling share-holder in a newly reopened theatre.
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Critical Review by Euphemia Van Rensselaer Wyatt
1,738 words, approx. 6 pages
"A Great while ago the world began" and ever since men and women have been making their own dream worlds while poets, who set boundaries to dreams, show what may happen on that far Illyrian shore where Shakespeare has set his comedy. Twelfth Night was the old English name for the Feast of the Epiphany and it marked the close of all the Christmas festivities; the minor note that is sounded in the title is the minor note of Elizabethan music and of all real comedy—the wishfulness of drea...
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Critical Review by Bernard Crick
1,704 words, approx. 6 pages
The Twelfth Night that has come from Stratford to London is the test of my claim that this is a great era of theatre. Here is the greatest and yet, in some ways, the most difficult of English comedies. And here is a superlative production of it, yet without a name, either of producer or actor, that would pull the public in, yet full of universal, simple joyful competence.
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Critical Review by Roger Warren
1,609 words, approx. 5 pages
John Napier's set was … the most striking feature of the new Twelfth Night, … it consisted of a sloping platform with bare trees in large square tubs and snow on the ground; the sun came out in time for Malvolio to practise behaviour in it, and Maria's grey winter shawl was decked out with green leaves and suspended from one of the trees to provide extra 'cover' for the eavesdroppers in the letter scene; from III, i daffodils blossomed in the tubs, and green leaves...
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Critical Review by Roy Walker
1,573 words, approx. 5 pages
Twelfth Night has not a 'personal' title, and it hardly seems to have a central character, prominent or retired, unless we follow, as most star actors and modern productions do, the theatrical logic of opportunity that led to the comedy's being called, as early as 1623, 'Malvolio'. It has, of course, the two elements usual in a Shakespeare comedy, a romantic plot and a comic plot, usually played for contrast and counterpoint rather than brought to any final resolution and...
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Critical Review by Robert Speaight
1,554 words, approx. 5 pages
Nothing that I had heard or read suggested that Mr. Clifford Williams' production of Twelfth Night was a good one. It seemed that he was trying to repeat his success with The Comedy of Errors by applying the same method to very different material. If you are out to debunk romanticism—a fashionable pastime in the contemporary theater—you will find that Shakespeare has already gone a good way in this direction, and that it is dangerous to out-pace him. As always, Shakespeare holds the ba...
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Critical Essay by Frank Benson
1,552 words, approx. 5 pages
Irving had far too strong a personality for Malvolio. To the best of my recollection his Malvolio was distinctly a gentleman, not a buffoon; he was dignified, not heavy. It was inconceivable that that commanding presence should be a mere steward. He looked like some great Spanish hidalgo—a painting of Velazquez; never could he have become the butt of his fellow-servants. For surely Malvolio graduated in the kitchen or the buttery; he is an old retainer, Sketch of Henry Irvin...
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Critical Review by Arnold Edinborough
1,528 words, approx. 5 pages
After four very successful years in a tent, the Shakespeare Festival at Stratford, Ontario, is now housed in an exciting new theatre. From the outside, with its circular scalloped roof fluting into deep folds like some great nun's coif and topped by a jaunty coronet flying two flags, it still retains the carnival atmosphere which the tent had. Inside, the stage designed by Tanya Moiseiwitsch and Tyrone Guthrie remains relatively unchanged.
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Critical Review by Bernard Levin
1,520 words, approx. 5 pages
Others abide our question; thou art free. But for many years now, thou hast been anything but free. When, and how and why, did the modern vogue for buggering Shakespeare about start? More to the point, why do we put up with it? True, we smile tolerantly when we read of the outrages to which he was subjected by 18th century actor-managers; but surely we should have progressed beyond the crudities of earlier times?
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Critical Review by E. A. Dithmar
1,481 words, approx. 5 pages
In the chronicle of the theatrical week the Viola of Ada Rehan holds the first place; in the record of her artistic career that lovely embodiment of one of Shakespeare's simplest but most beautiful creations will not be far from the first. Remembering Katharine, Julia, and Helena, it might be rash to say that her latest is her best work, but certainly she has done nothing better, for she realizes this heroine not only in her outward aspect, in form and bearing, and in melodious speech—she is ...
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Critical Review by Russell Jackson
1,415 words, approx. 5 pages
In the following excerpted review of the 2001 to 2002 Royal Shakespeare Company season at Stratford-upon-Avon, Jackson observes the erotic and decadent qualities of director Lindsay Posner's staging of Twelfth Night and highlights several individual performances, including Guy Henry's strangely empathetic Malvolio and Mark Hadfield's touching Feste.
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Critical Review by Russell Jackson
1,415 words, approx. 5 pages
In the following excerpted review of the 2001 to 2002 Royal Shakespeare Company season at Stratford-upon-Avon, Jackson observes the erotic and decadent qualities of director Lindsay Posner's staging of Twelfth Night and highlights several individual performances, including Guy Henry's strangely empathetic Malvolio and Mark Hadfield's touching Feste.
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Critical Review by Franàois Laroque
1,395 words, approx. 5 pages
Illyria this time has moved down to the shores of nineteenth century Greece, with cobalt blue skies, white blocks of houses, arched narrow streets, splashing fountains and open-air benches on both sides backstage.
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Critical Review by Berners W. Jackson
1,387 words, approx. 5 pages
The Twelfth Night directed by David Jones at the Festival Theatre was thoroughly agreeable Shakespeare, lively, full-bodied, and a pleasure to look at. Dressed by Susan Benson in costumes that were near-Renaissance, neither aggressively nor archly period, the production struck a subtle and convincing medium between the sunshine piece that we are told our forefathers relished and the acidulous attempt at black comedy that some modern directors have pursued in producing this play. Leslie Yeo's Sir Tob...
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Critical Review by John Pettigrew
1,375 words, approx. 5 pages
Over at the Festival Theatre, David Jones of the Royal Shakespeare Company directed an enjoyable Twelfth Night, straightforward and sunny, a production that left the more sombre areas unexplored—only once, I think, in Sir Andrew's response to Sir Toby's comtemptuous rebuke, did one of the flat characters for a fleeting moment become round. Much better than Stratford's first Twelfth Night (one twisted out of shape by Tyrone Guthrie's obsession with the play's darker...
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Critical Review by John Simon
1,241 words, approx. 4 pages
Is it cynicism, insensitivity, or merely total benightedness that prompts the New York Shakespeare Festival to mount the kind of travesty of Twelfth Night now on view in Central Park? The subtitle What You Will was surely not meant as an encouragement to cast rank amateurs or equally rank professionals, and to camp up a high comedy into the lowest, most effete farce. Either Joe Papp and his director, Wilford Leach, think that a non-paying audience enjoying a night under the stars does not know any better o...
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Critical Essay by Herbert Farjeon
1,235 words, approx. 4 pages
In the following essay, originally published in 1937, Farjeon comments on several issues associated with the staging of Twelfth Night in the late nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries.
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Critical Review by Hilary Spurling
1,229 words, approx. 4 pages
Columns are to architecture what melody is to music,' says Stendhal somewhere on his travels through Italy, and would have been pleased with both in the first minutes of Twelfth Night at Stratford: Orsino stands before a row of slender columns, listening in an attitude of conscious ecstasy—a rose in one outstretched hand, one foot poised on a stool in the centre of an empty, polished marble floor—to 'That strain again; it had a dying fall.' Orsino is a prince of the Renai...
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Critical Review by Jill Pearce
1,192 words, approx. 4 pages
The newly-formed Renaissance Theatre Company was launched in style at the Riverside Studios with a sell-out run of Twelfth Night, directed by Kenneth Branagh and produced by David Parfitt, who together direct the new company. Other interesting productions to be taken on tour in 1988 are Much Ado About Nothing (director, Judi Dench), Hamlet (Derek Jacobi), and As You Like It (Geraldine McEwan—who was taking a keen interest in Twelfth Night the evening we were there).
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Critical Review by J. C. Trewin
1,151 words, approx. 4 pages
At any revival of Twelfth Night—frequent though they are, there are not enough of them for my liking—I bring with me a bristle of anxious question-marks. "Look here," says Dickens's character, "upon my soul you mustn't come into the place saying you want to know, you know." Maybe; but there is much to ask in Twelfth Night. I found the old questions circling round me in Lilian Baylis's famous and beautifully renovated theatre, the Waterloo Road ...
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Critical Review by Robert Cushman
1,144 words, approx. 4 pages
But tell me true' asks Feste of Malvolio 'are you not mad indeed or doyou but counterfeit? A strange emphasis, and not, I think, one which many actors would employ of their own accord. It jerked me out of the stupor into which I had been cast by the slackest Sir Topas scene in my recollection, and set me wondering what Feste could possibly mean by it. A reference to bis own masquerade as Master Parson perhaps, but Malvolio is hardly in a position to see the joke. Anyway that seemed much too s...
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Critical Review by Robert Speaight
1,108 words, approx. 4 pages
Twelfth Night was the first of the productions that I saw this year, and on it I began to form the general impressions that I am recording here. I had seen the production two years ago, when it left me divided between delight and dissatisfaction. Mr. Hall, as it seemed to me, had started off with a good idea and had then gone some way to spoil it. All those cavaliers grouped around Orsino in a panelled hall straight out of Nash's English Mansions—this announced a Twelfth Night very much to my...
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Critical Review by Joseph Wood Krutch
1,097 words, approx. 4 pages
Presumably Shakespeare's contemporaries had no difficulty in knowing just how to take Twelfth Night and the other romantic comedies. But it has not always been so. In the next age that indefatigable playgoer Mr. Pepys witnessed a revival of the tale of Viola's misadventures, and he was probably speaking for most of his contemporaries when he called it "one of the weakest plays that ever I saw." Even today it would not be hard to find intelligent people ready to agree with Mr. Pe...
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Critical Review by Stark Young
1,082 words, approx. 4 pages
It is only fair to say of the new production of Twelfth Night: or, What You Will that some of our best critics have found it an occasion of great merit. They have found in it a deal of sweet enchantment, fun, loveliness, and wit and merriment. If you can get that from the occasion, you are lucky; for that was Shakespeare's intention undoubtedly.
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Critical Review by Ann Pasternak Slater
1,071 words, approx. 4 pages
John Caird's production of Twelfth Night opens in an atmosphere of brooding impasse. Torpid thunder rumbles intermittently, achieving downpour only at the play's end—cued by Feste's "The rain it raineth every day". A sapless tree of wrinkled polystyrene overhangs the stage. Barren rascals and dry fools roister and languish beneath it, or climb its leafless branches. It dominates both the action and the programme notes. Evidently it symbolizes the fruitless love-que...
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Critical Review by T. C. Worsley
1,063 words, approx. 4 pages
The best criticism I have heard of Mr. Hugh Hunt's production of Twelfth Night—with which the Old Vic make a welcome return to their old home in the Waterloo Road—was contained in a remark by a friend who listened to a description of it and then said: "I see, in other words, it managed to be both arty and hearty." It is just that. Its best bits are the hearty bits, centred round a fine scarlet-faced, broad-bottomed, big-bellied, rasping Roger Livesey as Sir Toby. Its wors...
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Critical Review by Hugh Leonard
1,057 words, approx. 4 pages
An heroic Sir Toby, a grimly disenchanted Feste, a Snudge-like Malvolio, and a Viola who strides boyfully around Illyria with the bemusement of a twentieth-century Alice in a medieval rabbit warren: these are the ingredients of Clifford Williams' new production of Twelfth Night at Stratford-upon-Avon. Shakespeare's alternative title for Twelfth Night was What You Will: which Mr Williams has evidently taken as a message personally intended for himself. It is not that he mixes his styles—...
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Critical Essay by John Mullan
1,036 words, approx. 4 pages
In the following excerpted review of the 2002 Donmar Warehouse Theatre staging of Twelfth Night directed by Sam Mendes, Mullan contends that an overemphasis on the erotic and sensual aspects of the drama, as well as on the suffering of Malvolio, obscured its comic elements and proved detrimental to the production.
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Critical Essay by John Mullan
1,036 words, approx. 4 pages
In the following excerpted review of the 2002 Donmar Warehouse Theatre staging of Twelfth Night directed by Sam Mendes, Mullan contends that an overemphasis on the erotic and sensual aspects of the drama, as well as on the suffering of Malvolio, obscured its comic elements and proved detrimental to the production.
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Critical Essay by Charles H. Shattuck
1,022 words, approx. 3 pages
Irving's Twelfth Night was unfortunately short-lived. At the end of the first London performance (July 8, 1884), the unbelievable happened: when Irving stepped forward to deliver his customary opening night address to the audience, he was interrupted by a scattering of boos and hisses. Startled and angered, he treated the audience to a scolding, which of course helped not at all. Some of the critics, attempting to account for the audience's displeasure, blamed Irving's Malvolio as �...
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Critical Review by Irving Wardle
1,003 words, approx. 3 pages
John Carlisle's Malvolio (replacing Antony Sher) is the only major cast change in Bill Alexander's production since Jeremy Kingston reviewed it in Stratford last July; but the immediate impression is that its characters are meeting for the first time.
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Critical Review by J. C. Trewin
989 words, approx. 3 pages
Malvolio, Olivia's steward in that Illyrian world of May, has been many people on many stages: I have seen him as a sombre precisian, an icy Cardinal in reduced circumstances, a blend of bullfrog and fretful porpentine. None would have recognised any other. Indeed, we could have a whole cast of rival Malvolios; and fun it might be.
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Critical Essay by Diane Solway
980 words, approx. 3 pages
Despite the sultry midday heat, all was astir in Central Park. At the Delacorte Theater, seemingly a world away, the actor F. Murray Abraham strode about the stage in straw hat, T-shirt and shorts reciting Shakespeare.
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Critical Review by Ronald Barker
977 words, approx. 3 pages
Even Nature combined with the Memorial Theatre to make this production of Twelfth Night an auspicious occasion and held back her blossom and fragrance until it had settled down. I saw the play in the third week of the season and found it one of the most interesting productions of the play I have seen.
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Critical Review by Simon Gray
961 words, approx. 3 pages
Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek sit collapsed, their eyes rheumy with retrospection, while Feste, as he sings 'What is love?' Tis not hereafter', watches them with tender irony. Later the three of them, spurred on by a Maria of real feeling, are baiting Malvolio when suddenly, as if overcome by shame, they pause to stare at each other aghast. Finally, at the end of his performance as Sir Topas, Feste takes off his beard with a weary disgust, and so permits the audience to be co...
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Critical Review by Robert Brustein
957 words, approx. 3 pages
In the following review of Brian Kulick's 2002 staging of Twelfth Night at the open-air Delacorte Theatre in New York City's Central Park, Brustein contends that Kulick and his star-studded cast barely explored the depths of character and theme offered by Shakespeare's text.
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Critical Review by Robert Brustein
957 words, approx. 3 pages
In the following review of Brian Kulick's 2002 staging of Twelfth Night at the open-air Delacorte Theatre in New York City's Central Park, Brustein contends that Kulick and his star-studded cast barely explored the depths of character and theme offered by Shakespeare's text.
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Critical Review by Kenneth Gross
951 words, approx. 3 pages
In the following review of the 2002 Holderness Theater Company production of Twelfth Night directed by Rebecca Holderness, Gross praises the minimalist staging of the play and calls attention to its fine dramaturgical effects, including the setting, lighting, dance, and music.
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Critical Review by Kenneth Gross
951 words, approx. 3 pages
In the following review of the 2002 Holderness Theater Company production of Twelfth Night directed by Rebecca Holderness, Gross praises the minimalist staging of the play and calls attention to its fine dramaturgical effects, including the setting, lighting, dance, and music.
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Critical Review by James Fenton
944 words, approx. 3 pages
So, Twelfth Night (RSC Stratford) is, in fact a revenge play, in which the Clown's resentment of Malvolio provides Daniel Massey as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Gemma Jones as Maria, and John Thaw as Sir Toby Belch in Caird's 1983 RSC production. the pivotal theme. Sir Toby Belch is the kind of bluff fellow whose bluffness is a cover for considerable nastiness. When things get out of hand, lives are not merely threatened—they are in real danger. Both the weat...
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Critical Review by Christopher Edwards
910 words, approx. 3 pages
John Caird's production of Twelfth Night is a delight. It is a triumph of stagecraft, of acting and direction; interestingly it is a triumph despite its own melancholy view of Shakespeare's comedy. Gone, probably for good, is the idea that the Comedies can be played as if they were regions of warmth and sunshine. The knowledge of Shakespeare's dramatic career as a whole seems to oblige the director to hold in view the tragedies and 'dark comedies' that lie ahead whose sha...
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Critical Review by Robert Brustein
901 words, approx. 3 pages
In the following review of Nicholas Hytner's Twelfth Night, Brustein contends that the production failed to explore the play's deeper issues and complexities. Brustein applauds Helen Hunt's solid interpretation of Viola, but notes that Kyra Sedgwick's Olivia is somewhat hyperactive.
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Critical Review by Robert Brustein
901 words, approx. 3 pages
In the following review of Nicholas Hytner's Twelfth Night, Brustein contends that the production failed to explore the play's deeper issues and complexities. Brustein applauds Helen Hunt's solid interpretation of Viola, but notes that Kyra Sedgwick's Olivia is somewhat hyperactive.
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Critical Review by Sally Aire
890 words, approx. 3 pages
In this new production Terry Hands seems to be seeking to direct us to a reappraisal of the traditional view of this piece as a simple Christmas divertissement, and in so doing gives us a production which in places seems perverse in its interpretation of characters and their narrative functions. Yet one of the happiest consequences of this rather wilful treatment is a re-think on Orsino and Olivia, neither of whom, traditionally played, is the most enlivening of Shakespeare's creations: Orsino, who ...
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Critical Review by The New York Times
886 words, approx. 3 pages
The numerous audience at the Star Theatre last evening looked upon a representation of one of Shakespeare's loveliest comedies, in which good judgment, taste, and imagination were seconded by artistic interpretation of no common merit. The pageantry of the play was exquisite and suitable, for the scenery was bright and ingeniously constructed, the costumes of opulent splendor, where that was called for, and always appropriate, and the occasional display of courtly pomp and magnificence was carried o...
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Critical Review by Peter Roberts
878 words, approx. 3 pages
A Freak Thunderstorm on the second night of the London showing of John Barton's revival of Twelfth Night at least ensured one experienced the production in a way denied the many enthusiasts who had queued to see it at last year's Stratford-on-Avon season. And if they think they John Barton's stage plan for his 1969 production of Twelfth Night. were fortunate not to have to sit in the Aldwych with empty ice cream cartons bobbing like miniature gondolas ...
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Critical Review by Ted Merwin
853 words, approx. 3 pages
In the following review, Merwin offers a mixed appraisal of Nicholas Hytner's production of Twelfth Night. The critic argues that Hytner and stage designer Bob Crowley failed to create an atmosphere of eroticism, and that the romance between Paul Rudd's Orsino and Helen Hunt's Viola was lukewarm at best. However, Merwin offers high praise for the performances of the supporting cast, particularly Philip Bosco's Malvolio.
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Critical Review by Ted Merwin
853 words, approx. 3 pages
In the following review, Merwin offers a mixed appraisal of Nicholas Hytner's production of Twelfth Night. The critic argues that Hytner and stage designer Bob Crowley failed to create an atmosphere of eroticism, and that the romance between Paul Rudd's Orsino and Helen Hunt's Viola was lukewarm at best. However, Merwin offers high praise for the performances of the supporting cast, particularly Philip Bosco's Malvolio.
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Critical Review by Gareth Lloyd Evans
842 words, approx. 3 pages
The penultimate production of the season—Twelfth Night—was awaited with interest and perhaps some trepidation, in view of the published announcements that it was to be linked with the last plays. Expectation was utterly confounded. John Barton has created the most visually graceful, most intelligently ordered production of this season. The vast stage area is gone, replaced by an elegant set, resembling an angular tunnel in perspective, but, with its candelabra and suggestion of wattle, redole...
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Critical Review by Richard Findlater
830 words, approx. 3 pages
After six years with the RSC John Caird, one of its four resident directors has staged his first major production in the main Stratford house; and it is surely a good augury for the future that this is an all-round success in an older Avonside tradition. No gimmicky sound scores, fancy dress or constructivist sets: not a hint of agitprop or alienation; no gabbling or garbling of the text; no patronising of the characters in the play. Here be, in profusion, clear voices, lush feelings, rich sunsets, starry ...
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Critical Review by Jeannette Gilder
807 words, approx. 3 pages
Although Mr. Daly has expended much labor and money upon his elaborate revival of Shakespeare's delightful comedy of Twelfth Night, and is entitled on that account to credit and gratitude, it must be confessed that the result is disappointing, inasmuch as the general richness of the setting excites expectations with regard to the acting which, unfortunately, are not always realized. The eye of the spectator is pleased continually by a series of glittering and attractive stage pictures, and by many e...
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Critical Review by Mel Gussow
799 words, approx. 3 pages
Given Wilford Leach's record for brightening so many al fresco evenings with Shakespeare, as well as The Pirates of Penzance and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, anticipation about Twelfth Night was as high as the Belvedere Castle that shadows the hospitable Delacorte Theater. In addition, the show was headlined by that Oscar-winning actor, F. Murray Abraham, turning to Shakespeare and returning to comedy in the choice role of Malvolio.
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Critical Review by J. W. Lambert
786 words, approx. 3 pages
Best To make clear at once that the Royal Shakespeare Company's new production of Twelfth Night at Stratford is entirely enjoyable, even to one who found their last version, especially in its second year, the most alertly beautiful of the last thirty years or so. That one, directed by John Barton, was glowingly elegiac—as, by and large, was Toby Robertson's recent re-creation for the Prospect Theatre Company.
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Critical Essay by Laurence Irving
783 words, approx. 3 pages
Twelfth Night was produced on July 8th 1884, Londoners were enduring a heat wave and those of them who made up the audience at the Lyceum were inclined to be as sultry as the night. Irving had spared no pains to match the decorative beauty of his Much Ado—perhaps in this respect he erred in overloading delicate comedy with stage effects. His Malvolio was the outcome of long and original study, for he had never seen the play performed. Phelps had revived the play at Sadler's Wells in 1848; his...
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Critical Review by Roger Warren
773 words, approx. 3 pages
John Caird's reading of Twelfth Night was extremely serious, especially in interpreting the lovers. Instead of quoting the usual tedious contemporary parallels and literary criticism, the program printed fourteen of the Sonnets, including sonnet 20, about the "master-mistress of my passion." Orsino spoke his first scene slowly and weightily; his obsession with Olivia might have seemed an affectation to his lethargic courtiers, but was real enough to him. So was Olivia's grief fo...
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Critical Review by Donald Lyons
745 words, approx. 3 pages
In the following review of Trevor Nunn's 1996 film version of Twelfth Night, Lyons describes the effort as undeniably successful, and finds that although the film teases the boundaries of “heterosexual decorum,” it never oversteps them. Additionally, Lyons praises the film's principal actors: Imogen Stubbs as Viola/Cesario, Helena Bonham Carter as Olivia, and Toby Stephens as Orsino.
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Critical Review by Donald Lyons
745 words, approx. 3 pages
In the following review of Trevor Nunn's 1996 film version of Twelfth Night, Lyons describes the effort as undeniably successful, and finds that although the film teases the boundaries of “heterosexual decorum,” it never oversteps them. Additionally, Lyons praises the film's principal actors: Imogen Stubbs as Viola/Cesario, Helena Bonham Carter as Olivia, and Toby Stephens as Orsino.
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Critical Essay by Robert Speaight
726 words, approx. 2 pages
For the seasoned playgoer any production of Twelfth Night has to compete with invincible memories, and it will be a long time before John Barton's treatment of the play a few years ago finds an effective challenger. Peter Gill is a newcomer to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. His vision is honest, if uninspired; and he took his cue from Narcissus—alias Orsino, Olivia, and Malvolio—gazing at his own image. Indeed the figure of Narcissus in the background was the only pictorial element in ...
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Critical Review by Mel Gussow
726 words, approx. 2 pages
David Mamet's lighthearted production of Twelfth Night at the Circle Repertory Company features two outstanding Shakespearean performances—by Lindsay Crouse in the pivotal role of Viola and by Colin Stinton in the usually subordinate role of Feste the clown.
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Critical Review by Benedict Nightingale
723 words, approx. 2 pages
If we're to believe Simon Gray, who reviewed it for the NS from Stratford last year, John Barton's Twelfth Night was a notably gloomy business, dominated by a Feste so black and brooding he'd make Lear's Fool look like a maypole. The production has now moved south, to the Aldwych, and thawed; though not quite enough, perhaps, or not in the right places. Illyria is not yet the cosy, irresponsible place Shakespeare is generally agreed to have postulated. Indeed, there's no ...
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Critical Review by T. C. Worsley
722 words, approx. 2 pages
For the Christmas season (up only until February 1) the Stratford Company bring into the Aldwych the Twelfth Night from the 1958 and 1960 seasons. The production is one of Mr. Peter Hall's, and, in my view, one of his best. But it flouts some of the traditions, and has to pay the penalty of being disliked by the Old Guard, not all of whom it may be found are very old.
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Critical Review by Henry Hewes
719 words, approx. 2 pages
The fifth summer of the Shakespeare Festival Theatre of Canada is notable, not only because the most unique and exciting theatre in North America has moved from a temporary tent to a beautiful permanent building, but also because it presents two stars many consider the finest classic performers of the younger generation. One, twenty-eight-year-old Christopher Plummer, is instantly recognizable as a potential Sir Laurence Olivier. He is even recognizable as such in this, his first Hamlet, which, though defi...
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Critical Review by Hilary Spurting
719 words, approx. 2 pages
Devotees of the spectacular, or for that matter of pantomime and magic spangles, must have been especially pleased by the light, fantastic style devised this year at Stratford for Pericles and The Winter's Tale. Clearly a scheme based on these two plays, with Henry VIII to come, should ideally have included Cymbeline or, failing that, The Tempest and preferably both. Clearly, on the other hand, the kind of audiences who flock enthusiastically to Stratford might reasonably be expected to stand for on...
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Critical Review by Alastair Macaulay
695 words, approx. 2 pages
Part of what makes young Emma Fielding, the RSC's new Viola in Twelfth Night, so captivating is that she is made up of contrasts. She is elfin, tiny, vulnerable, with vast eyes; and yet she is forthright, living intensely in the moment, with an inquiring little nose that is a vital part of her profile, and an eager stance whereby her weight rests keenly on her toes. This mix of opposites is why she was so heartcatching as Thomasina when Stoppard's Arcadia was new; and no less so in Jonathan K...
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Critical Review by Michael Coveney
693 words, approx. 2 pages
Even though it had little serious competition, this production by Peter Gill struck me as far and away the RSC's best offering at Stratford last year. And, re-staged for London by Colin Cook, the play still comes across with its original vigour and vitality. Quite simply, Mr. Gill has gone straight to the heart of a magical and mysterious IIlyria, revealing the lovers to be a responsive and complex quartet, continually fascinated and drawn on by the miracle of identify. No romantic twadle, no coy as...
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Critical Review by William Winter
691 words, approx. 2 pages
This review was first published in the New York Tribune on 19 November 1884.
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Critical Review by J. C. Trewin
686 words, approx. 2 pages
I used, in the primeval years, to attend a parish council meeting with a member who was so like Ian Holm's Malvolio that when this actor appeared in the Royal Shakespeare Company's Twelfth Night at Stratford-upon-Avon, I expected him to make an impassioned speech about footpaths. The aspect was similar: the same baldness with the straggling lock, the same smudge of moustache, the odd comic resemblance—as of a very distant cousin—to the Shakespeare portrait.
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Critical Review by John Simon
685 words, approx. 2 pages
Nowhere in the western world, I daresay, do the classics fare as badly as in our theater. I don't know whether it is the teaching or the learning—more properly the lack of teaching and the unwillingness to learn—that is to blame. In any case, American theater seems to be equipped only for the latest American plays; there is no sense of other times and other places—as what follows shockingly demonstrates.
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Critical Review by Kenneth Hurren
684 words, approx. 2 pages
Confronted with the business of reviewing yet another production of Twelfth Night, which sometimes seems to occur about every three or four weeks. I have often thought to fill up a bit of the space by detailing the plot. Not in this journal, of course, but there are other readerships that must be constantly irked by reviewers' assumption that everyone is as familiar with Shakespeare's plots as they are. I have felt it would be helpful to these happy illiterates to distinguish, at least, betwe...
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Critical Review by Christopher Edwards
681 words, approx. 2 pages
Too much has been made of the supposed bitterness of Shakespeare's Arcadia. For instance, to Auden, Shakespeare was in no mood for comedy in this play. Instinctively, I side with Hazlitt who held that Twelfth Night was one of the most delightful of the comedies, containing little satire and no spleen: 'Shakespeare's comic genius resembles the bee rather in its power of extracting sweets from weeds or poisons, than in leaving a sting behind it.' At any rate, the spleen should not...
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Critical Review by Benedict Nightingale
679 words, approx. 2 pages
One only has to look at the set to know what Peter Gill thinks of most of the characters in the Twelfth Night he's directed for the RSC. There, on a rust-coloured wall, is a sketch of Narcissus, gloating over his reflection; and there he remains, while John Price's Orsino palpitates, Mary Rutherford's Olivia postures behind her veil, and Nicol Williamson's Malvolio falls so massively sick of self-love that 'distempered appetite' seems as inadequate a diagnosis of h...
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Critical Review by Irving Wardle
676 words, approx. 2 pages
Quite a deal of poison has been seeping into this play over the past few years, but John Caird's production is the first I have seen that projects Twelfth Night as an all-out dark comedy.
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Critical Review by Edward Pearce
673 words, approx. 2 pages
The RSC production of Twelfth Night. . . , has the sort of clever charm which would make a forward-looking stomach turn. It is set very beautifully (a serious lapse already) in a Greek island or town, identifiable to British theatre audiences who holiday in such places when they can. Most critics were reminded of Mykonos; I was inclined to see Lindos on Rhodes. But there, chacun à son goùt.
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Critical Review by Robert W. Speaight
673 words, approx. 2 pages
When after 50 years of playgoing you cast your eye down a program of Twelfth Night, pick out the characters of Orsino, Feste, Maria, Aguecheek, Malvolio, Viola, and Olivia, and conclude that you have never seen these parts better played, and rarely played as well—when you leave the theater with tears in your eyes and laughter on your lips—then the performance you have seen bids fair to be definitive. Of course the bid fails because there are always other things to say, and another generation ...
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Critical Review by The Times
666 words, approx. 2 pages
Sir Laurence Olivier's interpretative resource is such that there was no guessing beforehand how he would choose to treat Malvolio; and the choice actually made—whether or not given theatrical validity—certainly took the Stratford first-night audience by surprise. It did not fall on the Puritan, whose portentous gravity is in itself a standing provocation to the fool-baiting Illyrians, a stiff spruce figure of preposterous pretensions. Nor on the insolent jackin-office, over-ambitious ...
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Critical Review by Illustrated London News
651 words, approx. 2 pages
A by no means inconsiderable advantage was enjoyed by Mr. Irving in ordaining the scenery, costumes, and general decorations of his superb revival of Twelfth Night in the circumstance that he was not tied in any sense to time as regarded the dressing of his characters and their architectural surroundings; nor, to any great extent, was he hampered by the exigencies of place. "A city in Illyria and the seacoast near it" is a geographical expression sufficiently elastic. With regard to the �...
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Critical Review by Stanley Wells
649 words, approx. 2 pages
I was once taken to task for describing Twelfth Night as the most elusive of Shakespeare's comedies, but Bill Alexander's new production confirms me in my opinion. Much about it feels right. The setting—an open space half-surrounding a mounting jumble of white, sunbaked archways, receding alleys, little steps, windows, and benches fixed to walk—permits one scene to flow into the next with an easy continuity. Although the firmly Adriatic setting (this is Illyria, Lady) sacrifices...
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Critical Review by Michael Ratcliffe
648 words, approx. 2 pages
The current RSC production of The Merchant of Venice at Stratford, directed by Bill Alexander, designed by Kit Surrey, lit by Robert Bryan and starring Antony Sher, grapples with the savagery of the play more powerfully than any Merchant in recent years. The same team has moved straight on to Twelfth Night (RST, Stratford) and the difference is extraordinary. There can rarely have been a version of this disturbing comedy so bland, humourless and cold. Its destruction is completed by a star performance from...
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Critical Review by Brooks Atkinson
645 words, approx. 2 pages
Give Tyrone Guthrie a trap door and he is as happy as two larks. In Twelfth Night, which opened in the new Festival Theatre last evening, he has a heavy, thumping trap door in the center of the platform stage and four of his actors put on a harlequinade around, in and out of it—into it feet first at a headlong speed that is always good for a roar from the audience.
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Critical Review by Irving Wardle
644 words, approx. 2 pages
Substantially recast since its first appearance a year ago, John Barton's Twelfth Night arrives at the Aldwych having undergone one of those transformations that often overtake productions on the road from Stratford to London.
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Critical Review by T. C. Worsley
639 words, approx. 2 pages
The new Stratford season which opened last week gives every promise of being extremely interesting. In contrast to last year the Directors have gathered a powerful cast to support the leading players, Sir Laurence Olivier and Miss Vivien Leigh: it is to include Angela Baddeley, Joyce Redman, Maxine Audley, Anthony Quayle, Alan Webb and Michael Denison. The two tragedies are to be the rarely staged Titus Andronicus as the last play and, as the third, Macbeth, in which there is good grounds for hoping that S...
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Critical Review by A. Alvarez
621 words, approx. 2 pages
The revival of his 1958 production of Twelfth Night shows Peter Hall settling more comfortably than before on the throne of the Stratford Memorial Theatre. And it looks like being a good reign. When the season started, I suggested that his great virtue was his prime concern for Shakespeare's poetry. This means that the verse-speaking is neither hammed into rant and ripe elocutionism nor is it ironed out into prose; it is, instead, a medium for the feeling intelligence and demands nothing less from t...
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Critical Review by Irving Wardle
617 words, approx. 2 pages
Anyone who has kept up with the Shakespearian repertory over the past 15 years will have noticed a gradual erosion of the old boundary between the "dark comedies" and their popular counterparts. As You Like It now plunges the pastoral refugees into worse conditions than those they left behind; Much Ado About Nothing celebrates the union of two dislikeable, sharp-tongued wall-flowers, while Twelfth Night has been all but engulfed in cruelty, pain, and the sense of mortal transience.
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Critical Review by Sheridan Morley
613 words, approx. 2 pages
Ever since Derek Jacobi's Cyrano spent the last act of that great production trying to keep his head above a sea of fallen leaves, the RSC has been obsessed by autumnal melancholy. Twelfth Night which has now come to the Barbican from last year at Stratford (with a couple of major casting changes) does admittedly begin to approach winter, but not the winter of indoor and jovial court charades generally suggested by the title. Instead the lights go up on Robin Don's wonderful set to reveal a b...
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Critical Review by Eric Sams
612 words, approx. 2 pages
Surprisingly, and disappointingly, this production lacks direction. Its aim is plain, and deserving of applause; let Shakespeare speak, without superimposed interpretation. The play itself, from its first line to its last, pleads for just such a performance. It avowedly strives to please us by presenting love and drama in terms of music, of which we can also make what we will. For this purpose, Peter Hall eschews both the broad approach of the English Shakespeare Company and the subtler individual detail o...
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Critical Review by H. R. Woudhuysen
611 words, approx. 2 pages
It is ten to eight in Illyria, snowing, and Christmas is well under way. There are plenty of drinks and jokes, a tree and presents, as well as songs and hangovers. The twelve days of Christmas pass; there is more snow; time untangles the lovers' knot and Malvolio swears his revenge: it is still ten to eight on the grandfather clock. So many things have happened: the usual family rows and disagreements, barely suppressed jealousies and resentments, choice specimens of bad behaviour and semi-private r...
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Critical Review by Michael Billington
597 words, approx. 2 pages
At first I thought we might be in for some shocks as Kenneth Branagh's production of Twelfth Night at the Riverside Studios reversed the order of Shakespeare's first two scenes. But it turns out to be a genial, generous actor-oriented production chiefly remarkable for its use of a Victorian Christmas setting and for Richard Briers's outstanding Malvolio, a cross between Mr Murdstone and Samuel Smiles.
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Critical Review by John Wain
592 words, approx. 2 pages
In the world of the cinema, the pundits are fond of telling us, a technical advance has usually been accompanied by a backslide in imagination and intelligence. I hope it won't turn out to be true of the theatre as well.
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Critical Review by David Patrick Stearns
591 words, approx. 2 pages
In the following review, Stearns assesses the production of Twelfth Night directed by Nicholas Hytner, which featured Helen Hunt as Viola. Stearns describes the production as a whole as lavish but not overdone, and comments that Hunt's performance was sincere and strong but failed to fully reveal the subtextual potential of the role.
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Critical Review by David Patrick Stearns
591 words, approx. 2 pages
In the following review, Stearns assesses the production of Twelfth Night directed by Nicholas Hytner, which featured Helen Hunt as Viola. Stearns describes the production as a whole as lavish but not overdone, and comments that Hunt's performance was sincere and strong but failed to fully reveal the subtextual potential of the role.
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Critical Review by Sheridan Morley
583 words, approx. 2 pages
Stratford's new main-stage Twelfth Night, directed by Bill Alexander, has one of those sets (here by Kit Surrey) that do most of the acting before the players have a chance to take up residence. "Which country, friend, is this?" "Illyria, lady" is thus an odd opening exchange, since we are clearly in downtown Paxos or on some neighbouring Greek island where you constantly expect to find Zorba setting up a dancing academy for the tourists. A hugely picturesque, sunbaked an...
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Critical Review by Peter Kemp
579 words, approx. 2 pages
Opal and taffeta—materials that flicker between one tinge and another—are both mentioned in Twelfth Night: appropriately for, placed at a time of the year when festivity shades back into sobriety, the play itself ceaselessly ripples between the bright and the sombre. Comic emotings clench into aching emotions. Appearances fluctuate, setting up undulations between pleasure and pain. It is entirely typical of the play's atmosphere that the songs of its clown, Feste, are forlorn.
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Critical Review by Benedict Nightingale
579 words, approx. 2 pages
For some time now our directors have been conscientiously darkening what used to be regarded as Shakespeare's happiest comedy. We have had glum and scabrous Festes, and we have had Malvolios so cruelly teased that even the Belches—mean drunks and unprincipled predators to a man—have proved mildly shocked by their maltreatment. But these prison-house productions have obviously missed much, not least the interestingly erratic and even violent behaviour of some of the more romantic charac...
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Critical Review by Garry O'Connor
578 words, approx. 2 pages
Shakespeare may have had the taste of olives in his mouth when he wrote Twelfth Night. Viola, Malvolio, Olivia not only have an anagrammatical closeness of sound, but during the play they are lovingly crushed, and while one yields pure oil, another a bitter taste, the three as characters have flavour rather than depth. The lovesick Orsino, his name a cross between arse and obscene, is himself as about as enticing as a whole bowl of olives; Feste, with his callous wit and melancholy songs, spits out the sto...
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Critical Review by Christopher Edwards
576 words, approx. 2 pages
Peter Hall has directed a charming, intelligent and enjoyable production of Twelfth Night. These qualities, by themselves, may not satisfy the dwindling band of diehards pursuing novelty or deeply topical reinterpretations of Shakespeare. Feste is not projected as a proto-Green, nor is Malvolio a Shi'ite Muslim. Instead, the play's delicate shifting moods and its magnificent language are, on the whole, allowed to operate upon us with a minimum of interference.
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Critical Review by Benedict Nightingale
575 words, approx. 2 pages
What a delight Ian Judge's production more than compensates for the weird concoction—Orsino's court as Dartmouth Naval College, if you please—that masqueraded as Twelfth Night at this address three years ago. In Desmond Barrit we have the funniest Malvolio since Donald Sinden back in 1969 and in Emma Fielding as moving a Viola as I have seen since I can't say when. With Toby Stephens's Coriolanus doing wonderfully supercilious things with his nose, chin and voice a...
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Critical Review by Alan Brien
572 words, approx. 2 pages
I sometimes wonder what would happen if our bright young directors took the same impertinent liberties with the work of other dramatists which they now invariably take with Shakespeare. Early Noàl Coward could be played as Restoration comedy. Ibsen could be played as Aldwych farce on a permanent set with nine doors. Accept the principle that the less the audience understand of the dialogue the more they will enjoy the horseplay, and any play can be treated as an abandoned old clothes shop only fit to ...
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Critical Review by Jeremy Kingston
561 words, approx. 2 pages
For the young lovers in Twelfth Night the last scene brings them all their hearts desire. Twins are reunited, boys turn out to be girls, a double marriage is arranged. Then the mood is interrupted—though not so much interrupted as permanently modulated into something profounder than the conventional happy end of romance. With one terse, tremendous line—"I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you!"—Malvolio flings himself out of the play. And lest we think this scene...
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Critical Review by B. A. Young
553 words, approx. 2 pages
The programme quotes R. D. Laing on Jill, a distorting mirror to herself, who has to distort herself to appear undistorted to herself. You can make any number of such games from Twelfth Night "You do think you know not what you are," says Viola to Olivia. "If I think so," says Olivia, "I think the same of you." "Then think you right, I am not what I am," Viola confesses. But it's no more than a game; as an identical twin, I've experience...
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Critical Review by Irving Wardle
535 words, approx. 2 pages
The main intention of Peter Gill's production is inscribed on the back wall of William Dudley's bare set: the figure of Narcissus gazing down into his pool.
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Critical Review by Grenville Vernon
530 words, approx. 2 pages
If Twelfth Night has ever received a New York production in which the acting level was higher or the staging more vital, it has not been in the memory of my generation. There are many to thank for this, the real opening of the season of 1940-41. There are the Theatre Guild and Gilbert Miller for sponsoring it, Theresa Helburn and Lawrence Langner for supervising it, Stewart Chaney for designing the settings and costumes, Margaret Webster for directing it, and the magnificent cast for playing it. Twelfth Ni...
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Critical Review by Paul Taylor
518 words, approx. 2 pages
No one can work an audience better than Desmond Barrit: he is to engaging camp what a butter mountain is to butter. Whether as Toad in Wind in the Willows or as Brazen in The Recruiting Officer, this gifted, corpulent comedian has the knack of totally winning you round to characters who would otherwise be objectionable. Is this a talent, though, you would wish to see applied to Malvolio, the killjoy steward in Twelfth Night? If the first night audience for Ian Judge's tourist-friendly production is ...
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Critical Review by Martin Hoyle
517 words, approx. 2 pages
There's no stopping Kenneth Branagh. No sooner has his face disappeared from our Sunday night television screens and The Fortunes of War than it reappears on the large screen in A Month in the Country. The West End is already enjoying his production of John Sessions in The Life of Napoleon, and now Branagh's bravely named Renaissance Theatre Company opens its first full-scale Shakespearian enterprise at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. A dankness has seeped up from the Thames; for this T...
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Critical Review by Sheridan Morley
514 words, approx. 2 pages
"If music be the food of love, play on" is arguably the most famous and oft-quoted opening line in all Shakespearian comedy. It takes, therefore, a certain amount of courage to start Twelfth Night without it, or indeed that whole first scene. Instead, Kenneth Branagh's new production at Riverside Studios plunges us straight into scene two and Viola's shipwrecked arrival: "What country, friends, is this?" "This is Illyria, lady" but it is like no Illyr...
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Critical Review by Nicholas de Jongh
510 words, approx. 2 pages
Although Twelfth Night is Shakespeare's most sexually subversive and ambivalent comedy, most modern directors steer clear of its erotic potential. So it proves in Ian Judge's jovial new production, which plays the broad comedy to the hilt, with picturesque flourishes. The romantic and sexual aspects drift discreetly into the shade.
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Critical Review by Malcolm Rutherford
496 words, approx. 2 pages
Sir Peter Hall's production of Twelfth Night at the Play-house Theatre is remarkably pretty to look at. The dominant colours in the set are red and green: a tree with bright red apples, the windfalls lying on the grass. Nature spills over into the costumes. Sir Toby Belch appropriately has more than a touch of red about him. There is also the black and yellow of Malvolio.
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Critical Review by Edith Oliver
490 words, approx. 2 pages
Twelfth Night, which opened last week at the Circle Repertory, under the direction of the dramatist David Mamet, is deliberately informal and moves briskly from beginning to end. Every moment is clear—which takes some doing—and the preposterous story, called by Wolcott Gibbs "as irritating as a raspberry seed in a back tooth," becomes acceptable (or is easily ignored), in spite of the pun-cluttered dialogue, which impressed Mr. G. as "a torment to all but the exceptionall...
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Critical Review by Clive Barnes
484 words, approx. 2 pages
David Jones's staging of Twelfth Night proved to be a beauty—one of the lightest, most luminous and elegant things to be seen in Stratford for some years.
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BACKGROUND:
481 words, approx. 2 pages
Not long ago Twelfth Night was regarded as Shakespeare's most serene comedy. Then the scholars remembered that the great tragedies came only a few years later, and began to see darkness, danger and malice behind the play's smiles, and, inevitably, the directors followed. Toby Belch became a horrid, bulbous drone, the practical jokes he plays on Malvolio almost demanded investigation by Amnesty International, and Illyria seemed barely sunnier than Birnam Wood or Dunsinane.
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Critical Review by Sheridan Morley
480 words, approx. 2 pages
Short of making it into a musical, which amazingly seems never to have been tried, there's not a lot that even the most wilful or determined of directors can do with Twelfth Night. Unusually, almost alone among the later comedies, it defies any kind of social or political or historical comment and therefore is inclined to become an actors' rather than a producer's play.
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Critical Review by John Beaufort
476 words, approx. 2 pages
"What country, friends, is this?" asks the ship-wrecked Viola in the second scene of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.
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Critical Review by Eric Keown
451 words, approx. 2 pages
It is always interesting to see a successful production revived with a different cast, and from Peter Hall's 1958 Stratford Twelfth Night only Dorothy Tutin, Patrick Wy-mark and Ian Holm remain. This makes the third in Mr. Hall's sequence of Shakespearian comedies. Its performance is considerably stronger than it was two years ago.
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Critical Review by John Peter
449 words, approx. 2 pages
Sir Peter Hall's new production of Twelfth Night (Playhouse) is a labour of love, but I do not mean that as a compliment. Hall last directed this play in Stratford 31 years ago: the brilliant 29-year-old who had just founded the RSC and set out to rediscover, underneath Shakespeare the Romantic poet, Shakespeare the hard-headed political writer, the ruthless psychologist, the ironic joker. I saw that first Twelfth Night as a young student and still remember its irresistible freshness, its vigour and...
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Critical Review by Peter Ransley
441 words, approx. 2 pages
Peter Gill's beautifully clear production of Twelfth Night for the RSC at Stratford is played against a sketch of Narcissus gazing at himself in a pool. And throughout the play, the precision of the direction keeps the pool clear, so that we can see not only the characters, but their endless reflections in one another.
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Critical Review by Jeremy Kingston
440 words, approx. 2 pages
Clifford Williams directed a joyous Comedy of Errors a few years back and more recently extracted much hilarity from Marlowe's Jew of Malta. His Twelfth Night (Stratford-upon-Avon), altogether a trickier play, comes across as an uneven, rather lolloping affair. Excellently inventive at times—even making fresh sense of some obscure Shakespeare allusions—too many scenes give an impression of under-rehearsal. It was as if we were watching a run-through a week before opening night at the e...
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Critical Review by Irving Wardle
439 words, approx. 2 pages
Having shown Troilus and Cressida through the eyes of Thersites, John Barton now gives us Feste's version of Twelfth Night: and again the fool proves himself the best guide to the play.
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Critical Review by Nicholas Shrimpton
432 words, approx. 1 pages
The set of Twelfth Night was part ruined garden, part graveyard. A vast autumnal tree overshadowed (for Orsino's court) a pair of rusting gates and (for Olivia's house) a mortuary chapel. Sarah Berger's black-gowned Olivia was ostentatiously in mourning for her dead brother, while Miles Anderson gave us an appropriately violent, sombre, and austere Orsino. Fabian was an old man, Feste a pensive intellectual.
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Critical Review by Eric Keown
425 words, approx. 1 pages
It seemed fair to expect a great deal of a Twelfth Night produced by John Gielgud and containing a Malvolio by Laurence Olivier, a Viola by Vivien Leigh. This opening production at Stratford is, of course, an improvement on anything we saw there in last year's meagre season, but considering the talents now assembled it remains strangely disappointing. Sir Laurence has chosen to give Malvolio a rather tortured lisp, as of an aspiring barrow-boy earnestly improving his English at night-school; and tho...
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Critical Review by Peter Fleming
421 words, approx. 1 pages
There is a certain lack of heart about this elegant and well-paced production. The play (as Johnson very mildly put it) 'exhibits no just picture of life,' and we cannot expect to have our withers wrung by the pangs of the lovers or the humiliations which Malvolio brings upon himself. Yet we ought, at times, to be touched by them, however lightly or quizzically; and here we are not.
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Critical Review by Michael Coveney
407 words, approx. 1 pages
On the main Stratford stage, 'Doctor Feelgood' (Motto: 'Here's some Shakespeare, it won't hurt a bit') strikes again. The director Ian Judge has become the RSC's 'warm glow' specialist, and his Elizabethan, Stratfordian Twelfth Night is a third knockout RSC comedy experience following the surreal Comedy of Errors and the Edwardian Love's Labour's Lost (now running at the Barbican).
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Critical Review by The Times
407 words, approx. 1 pages
Clifford Williams, who directed the Royal Shakespeare's vastly successful Comedy of Errors has now tackled Twelfth Night on similar lines, presenting it as a hard-edged almost Italianate comedy firmly steeled against pathos and poetry.
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Critical Review by Michael Billington
399 words, approx. 1 pages
Peter Gill made his name as a director with his meticulously realistic productions of D. H. Lawrence; yet paradoxically his Stratford production of Twelfth Night (his first for the RSC) seems curiously short on social and human detail. It is intelligent, well spoken and boasts a superlative Malvolio in Nicol Williamson; but at the moment it looks more like an X-ray plate of the play than the living article itself.
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Critical Review by Kate Kellaway
395 words, approx. 1 pages
From the programme arranged like an advent calendar and the stage upon which at first you can make out only wintry shapes because of an expanse of gauze which veils the view, it is apparent that Kenneth Branagh's Twelfth Night (Riverside) takes delight in mystery and discovery.
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Critical Review by Peter Jackson
374 words, approx. 1 pages
What a rib-tickling, refreshing Twelfth Night Peter Hall has conjured up for the second production of the Stratford season; a production that is smooth and gay and brimming with new ways to play old tricks.
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Critical Review by The Athenaeum
367 words, approx. 1 pages
The production of Twelfth Night is the most interesting feature in Mr. Daly's programme since his memorable revival of Taming of the Shrew. As in most recent Shakespearean representations, too much stress is laid upon the setting, and accessories are elevated into undeserved and, in a sense, inartistic prominence. Yet only when similar conditions prevail are we likely to see Shakespearean comedy at all, and to complain of means when the result is delightful would be churlish. For delightful the repr...
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Critical Review by Michael Coveney
326 words, approx. 1 pages
It would be charming, but dishonest of me, to be complimentary about Twelfth Night at the Playhouse, the theatre you can never quite find near Charing Cross. There is simply no better Malvolio in the world than Eric Porter, who repeats the silkily incensed Puritan he first launched in the RSC's very first season in 1960 and repeated, more gustily, at the ill-fated St George's in Tufnell Park some years ago.
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Critical Review by Robert Hewison
302 words, approx. 1 pages
In the main house at Stratford the Royal Shakespeare Company presents … Twelfth Night. Bill Alexander has chosen a specific Aegean setting, with mock-Mykonos architecture by Kit Surrey and superb costumes by Deirdre Clancy, which create a romantic but entirely consistent late 17th-century Greek world.
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Critical Review by J. C. Trewin
247 words, approx. 1 pages
Illyria has often been a strange place; yet though it is a world just over the horizon, it must not be fantasticated beyond belief. Terry Hands joined the various directors who have used the secondary title, What You Will, as an invitation to adventure. At Stratford he also accepted a hint from the calendar. At first it was obviously a hard Illyrian winter, snow powdered beneath the leafless trees, everyone muffled up but (for all the low temperature) staying perpetually and unpersuasively out of doors. Un...
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Critical Review by Irving Wardle
221 words, approx. 1 pages
With its cute Warwickshire street scenes (John Gunter) and lush orchestral underpinning (Nigel Hess), Ian Judge's production of Twelfth Night has all the signs of a number one tourist attraction. It also overflows with fresh and truthful detail—beginning, if you please, with a comic Orsino (Clive Wood) whose pretended grand passion collapses in ruins once he meets Viola and experiences the real thing. No wonder, given Emma Fielding's performance, which combines the high romance of a be...


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