Twelfth Night: Interpretations Through the Directors Staging

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  • Topic: William Shakespeare, Shakespearean history, Shakespeare's plays
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  • Published : April 20, 2013
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Twelfth Night: Interpretations through the Directors Staging Antonio: I could not stay behind you: my desire,
More sharp than filed steel, did spur me forth;
And not all love to see you, though so much
As might have drawn one to a longer voyage,
But jealousy what might befall your travel,
Being skilless in these parts; which to a stranger,
Unguided and unfriended, often prove
Rough and unhospitable: my willing love,
The rather by these arguments of fear,
Set forth in your pursuit. (Twelfth Night, 3.3.6-16)

For hundreds of years people from all over the world have seen the works of William Shakespeare performed by thousands of actors. Twelfth Night or What you Will is but one of the many comedies written by William Shakespeare that have been produced in many formats, from theater, television and even several feature films. So many different productions of the same works have opened the door to directors adding their own twist to the original script to make it their own. One play can be performed countless different ways, from very conservative or to unconventional depending on the director’s interpretation and intentions. So all writings are open for creative interpretation thus being for this paper I am going to focus on the directorial staging of this play and how the staging and direction brought the focus of the subplot of Antonio and Sebastian into a homoerotic relationship opposed to other renditions of Twelfth Night that were homosocial. Directors have creatively reconstructed these plays pulling from the era, the popular ideology of the community and political correctness at the times the different styles and interpretations so that Shakespeare can be adapted to the current times. My most recent exposure to the Shakespeare is Twelfth Night as it was performed in Ashland, Oregon, during the 2010 Shakespeare Festival, directed by Darko Tresnjak. The design and style of the set design and costumed was reminiscent of the movie Mozart in the play bill the director did mention that this movie did give him some inspiration for these choices. The white costumes of the Dukes court. The season was summery with no hint of the holidays, no Christmas ornamentation. The actors who played Sebastian and Antonio with the direction from the director acted out the relationship between them as overly homosexual, as if they were lovers. Antonio was far more feminine and flamboyant (similar to the role played by Johnny Depp in the movie Pirates of the Carrabin) and Sebastian was more masculine. I think the director used this opportunity to emphasize this aspect of our modern American homosexual subculture. I think the director wanted to reflect upon homosexuality in America currently instead of the over emphasized the traditional comedic element of cross dressing and mischievous misrepresentation of the sexes that has been a popular and humorous way to perform Shakespeare’s plays. True this play has homoerotic elements in it that hundreds of years ago were considered humor, cross dressing, falling in love with a “perception” of what is not what you perceive. This was recreated in several comedies during this time. At the time this was written for popular entertainment to be funny and absurd. A romantic comedy where someone falls in love with an illusion and is made to look foolish is an underlying theme in many comedies of the time. The director in the Ashland example defiantly imposes the ideology of modern homosexuality into this version of Twelfth Night. This becomes evident in Act 2, Scene 1 (2.1.1-52); “… ANTONIO: If you will not murder me for my love, let me be your servant. SEBASTIAN: If you will not undo what you have done, that is, kill him whom you have recovered, desire it not. Fare ye well at once: my bosom is full of kindness, and I am yet so near the manners of my mother, that upon the least occasion more mine eyes will tell tales of me. I am bound to the Count Orsino's court: farewell. Exit….”...
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