‘An experience of pleasurable merry-making and social inversion (Stott) How far does this seem to be true in the play so far?
In Twelfth Night, Stott’s statement seems to be true in parts. The former part of the statement- ‘an experience of pleasurable merry-making’- is something that I, in parts, take an exception to. Although it is obvious that Shakespeare wishes the play to be light-hearted- which is shown, for instance, when Viola quickly brushes over the (apparent) death of her brother, friends, and shipwreck that she has just braved through, in the line: ‘O my poor brother! And perchance may he be [saved]’. Although this dismissal of big news could simply be interpreted as foreshadowing the return of Sebastian (her brother) later in the play, it seems dark if not discovered retrospectively, through the brevity of her musing. For C.L. Barber (whose ideas Stott is describing) this ‘pleasurable merrymaking’ is ‘neither satirical nor political’. However, I would argue that Shakespeare is making many satirical points in the play, and that the social inversion is, undoubtedly, a political point. With a woman playing a man in order to gain power, is Shakespeare not satirising the patriarchal government of that time? And, yes, Viola seems to make this decision very quickly, in the line ‘Conceal me what I am, and be my aid/ for such disguise as haply become/ the form of my intent’. The short first clause (‘conceal me what I am’) mirrors the ‘get rich quick’ idea of many Greek comedies, and is therefore a source of humour. However, is this not satirising the dominant-male power structure of the period? Alternatively, Shakespeare could simply introduce this theme so as to make people continually find humour in the idea that a woman should find a position of power, toting Shakespeare as a bit of a misogynist. I would also argue that a great satire is made on the idea of love in the first scene, with Orsino used as a vehicle to satirise the boundaries between love...
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