Apr 13, 2013

Twelfth Night

We're going classic again... with Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (alternatively known as What you Will... like one of those books where you pick the plot line and ending? Nope, this is not one of those.), which has been turned and twisted into countless movie renditions, but we'll get to those later. What happens when you're shipwrecked in some place, your entire family may or may not be dead, and all of your possessions are waterlogged and thus taken away to be stored? According to Viola, obviously the most logical  solution is to dress up like your drowned and dead brother. (Everyone, say hello to Viola the transvestite.) Because that's the only viable option.... right....? Well, it is if this is a Shakespearean comedy!

Still a better love story than Twilight.
Viola, the protagonist, dresses up like a boy, names herself Cesario, and goes wand'ring about the fair kingdom of Illyria. Unsurprisingly, she ends up in love... with a man... while she's dressed as a man. That man, the Duke of Orsino, hires her/him has his lackey and she/he goes off to woo and bend to the whims of love one Olivia, the most wanted woman in Illyria. Olivia, through careful consideration, falls in love all right... but to CESARIO/VIOLA!!! WHAT!? That's not the way that was supposed to turn out! Okay, now consider that this is compounded by the fact that, in Shakespeare's time, a young boy would've played the role of Viola... so it's a boy, as a woman, as a man, in love with a man, who loves another woman, who loves the man that's a woman that's a boy... Good Lord! Did I even get that right?

This love triangle confusion...
So we've got ourselves this twisted little love triangle, which is simply aggravated by the fact that no one knows that Cesario's actually a woman. Meanwhile, Cesario's doing the Duke's bidding and runs into this dude named Antonio... who has been hanging out with Sebastian  Viola's supposedly dead brother... who looks exactly like the male form of Viola.. geez, Shakespeare had some internal conflict going on when he wrote this thing! They (Cesario and Antonio) get into a fight and Antonio's all like "What? Sebastian, dude, we're bros!" and Cesario is all like "Sebastian!? But he's dead? What?" Except for that Shakespeare made that longer and more poetic. 

There's plot twist upon plot twist and at the end everyone finds out the Cesario is Viola, Sebastian ain't dead, and the Duke gives up his love for Olivia. Olivia's like "oh... there's a guy that looks exactly like Cesario, so he must BE exactly like him. Eh, I'll marry him even though I've only known him for TWO FREAKING MINUTES!" (Lesson #1: Don't marry strangers.) Then the Duke of Orsino is like "Well, if Cesario and I are friends, obviously Viola (female form) and I can't be friends... she's a girl. Ew, cooties." And so he decides to marry her... (Lesson #2: Don't settle for the female form of your male counterpart... *Cue music* Listen to your heaaarrttt *Stop*)

Helena Bonham Carter in Twelfth Night
Because this irritated me, I'm going to talk about it... you can skip this paragraph if you don't want to read a rant about transvestite-ism not having to be permanent, if you don't want it to be permanent. Orsino (Duke) then decides that while Viola is dressed like Cesario, she's going to be called by Cesario, and when she gets back her clothes, she will be his mistress... one small issue. Her clothes are in ITALY. A bajillion miles away... by boat. Do you think she wants to get on another boat? (Lesson #3: Don't piss off your future wife.) Also, why the heck can't Olivia just be like "You can borrow mine. Yay, twinsies!" And is there not a seamstress in the whole freaking kingdom of Illyria!? Your economy... it's failing. (In later news Illyria is actually Greece... lols, jk, it's Albania.)

Amanda Bynes in She's the Man
Rant done. So, the play has been done in several movies, both interpretations of the play and the play itself. One of the most commonly watched versions of the play, released in 1996, stars Helena Bonham Carter, as Olivia, with Imogen Stubbs in the role of Viola/Cesario. A commonly known adaptation of the play, She's the Man, stars Amanda Bynes in the role of Viola and Channing Tatum as Duke. This spin-off shows Viola going to an all-boys school, Illyria, to play soccer while her brother goes off to follow his dreams of stardom. Though the movie may stretch the lines in the interpretation, it is a hilariously modern and comical approach to the whole idea.

Overall, the book gets a 8 for hilarity and a 6 for absurdity. Shakespeare really stretched the boundaries on what was socially acceptable at the time with this play, and I applaud him for that. Rebel on, William!

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