Twelfth Night critics & productions

1660s women allowed on stage – but before this time female characters are not viewed as male actors like they would be today – modern comedy.
1602 Manningham saw the gulling of Malvolio as “good practice in it””make the Steward believe his Lady widow was in love with him… they took him to be mad” she’s not a widow
1623 Charles I crosses out title and replaces it with ‘Malvolio’
1640 Digges “the boxes are all full to hear Malvolio that cross gartered gull”
1711 Richard Steele “Malvolio has wit, learning, and dicernment, but temper’d with an ally of envy, self-love and detraction”
1756 Samuel Johnson “a cunning schemer never at a loss”
1867 E. Montegut “we are all, in varying degrees, insane… some have graceful poetic madness, others a madness grotesque and trivial”
1869 John Middleton Murray “silvery undertone of sadness”
1939 Van Doren “modern audiences have bestowed more sympathy on Malvolio than shakespeare perhaps intended””Shakespeare has built a world out of music and melancholy”
1951 Goddard “marriage, which all the cakes and ale will not turn into what it is not”
1955 Berry “the ultimate effect of Twelfth Night is to make the audience ashamed of itself”
1955 Summers “his misfortunes in love is comic even from his own view point”
1955 Edmondson Malvolio arrives on stage at the end “broken, unloving and unlovable”
1986 Hollander “will sicken and die leaving fulfilled the tempered, harmonious self”
1959 C.L. Barber “reconcile and restore and maintain social order”
1964 Gerard “controlled by his own blindness and self love”
1965 Kott “passion is one it only has different faces”
1970 Carnivalesque Mikhail Bakhtin
Mikhail Bakhtin “comic confusion permanently changes and liberates”
1972 Palmer “fluidity of mood”
1972 Barton “fiction yields to fact and we return to normality”
1974 Peter Gill’s RSC portrait of Narcissus peering down on the play
1974 Leggatt “Malvolio is fully happy only when he is alone”
1976 Porter & 2001 Posner Malvolio imprisoned below the stage – signified hell in Elizabethan theatre
1980 Lamb “constant change is necessary to maintain order”
1981 Ralph Berry “The joke has gone too far, and we know it”
1981 Ralph Berry “the destruction of Malvolio was received in complete silence”
1981 Marilyn French tragedies concentrate on masculine values… comedies deal with feelings”
1981 Grief “life is ingrained with illusion”Olivia & Orsino mistake it for reality
1983 Wanamaker Viola is “the catalyst of the play”she is used to free Olivia & Orsino from their illusions
1884 Irving production presents Malvolio as a tragic hero
1985 Levin “social climber and officious snob”
1985 Levin Malvolio “Malvolio’s own desire for olivia is inextricably bound up with his ambition”
1987 Bloom viola Who else would fall in love with the self intoxicated Orsino?”
1987 Bloom Olivia “erotic arbitrariness”
1987 Bloom “play of no genre”
1988 Kenneth Branagh opening scene blue lighting portrays Orsino as much more melancholic – pain instead of self obsession consumed by the idea of love
1988 Kenneth Branagh box tree Victorian movable Christmas tree to highlight Malvolio’s arrogance
1988 Kenneth Branagh Viola Viola never changes back into women’s clothes – remains trapped/ would have been played by a man in Shakespeare’s time.
1992 Pennington “he doesn’t want you to go to the theatre at all”
1994 Barton “reason has been swept away by an emotional thunderstorm”
1996 Trevor Nunn Victorian but poignant sexual charge – highlights topsy-turvy nature of twelfth night
1996 Trevor Nunn opening scene over dramatic -everyone in the room watching Orsino – self obsessedalso uses red – luxury/ lust
1996 Trevor Nunn Feste watches viola enter Illyria – omniscient
1896 Fredrick Boas ‘problem plays’
1997 RSC Malvolio Philip Voss looked at audience when he said revenged on the whole pack of ‘you’ threatening audience
2001 Bruce Smith “cruelty inherent in comedy”
2001 Posner production Antonio and Sebastian wake up in an unmade bed togetherMalvolio imprisoned below the stage
2003 Tim Supple opening scene cross cutting between dark and luxury reds & singing – Orsino erraticOrsino shooting bulls-eye with arrows – highlights power
2004 Globe Olivia seen as a ‘love crazed maniac’growing obsession over ceasario emphasised as she gives him the ring, teases him and then marries Sebastian – Olivia lowers herself(Globe production most similar to Shakespeare’s)
2006 R W Maslen objectification Orsino doesn’t desire Olivia, only the power he will hold over her “liver, brain and heart”Malvolio objectifies Olivia “branched velvet” only wants to marry her for the status it will give him
2006 R W Maslen comedy linked with sexual transgressionwomen in Twelfth Night defy Elizabethan conventions- deny men – disguise as a man and becomes powerful- marries above status
2012 Globe Malvolio Act 2 Scene 5 box tree Malvolio “i will smile” attempts to smile but more of a grimacealso skips around the stage- his deception is amusing
2014 Walter Kaiser viola “masculine boyishness with a feminine allurement”
2014 Globe Walter Kaiser Malvolio “Malvolio has tended to threaten the balance of the play by taking over as protagonist”Charles I crossed out title of the play and replaced it with Malvolio’s namethis Malvolio does not revert to slapstick
2014 Globe Walter Kaiser “The joyful resolutions at the end of Twelfth Night are possible only within its fantasy world”emphasises the carnival nature of illyriaFeste’s song brings the audience back to normalityall the characters in this production are caricatures
Perno – modern “it is as Cesario she is loved”
2017 National Theatre gender changes Malvolio becomes Malvolia which is reminiscient/ mocking of original casts in shakespeare’s time when all the female characters would have been portrayed by males.more accepting of modern beliefs
2017 National Theatre Malvolia dances in a ‘bawdy and obscene fashion’ in scene with Olivia – timeless humour
2017 National Theatre Feste played by a women to increase representation but little emphasis is placed on her intelligence, she is just seen as a fool which actually detracts from the point of including women if they are portrayed as superficial and two-dimensional.
2017 National Theatre Simon Godwin “three queer characters, who are also the three to end up humiliated and alone” another example of NT trying to express more modern views but actually doing the opposite
2017 National theatre sir Topas Feste changes his tonal register when voicing sir Topas to further confuse Malvolio and highlight dramatic ironyhowever this may take away from the idea of Malvolio’s ignorance and self love
2017 National Theatre Olivia “secretly jiving in her mourning dress”
2018 RSC Michael Billington “I missed that delicate intertwining of melancholy and laughter””rarely felt that poignant sense of mortality”
2018 RSC Act 2 Scene 5 box tree Fabia, Andrew and Toby hide behind statues replacing their limbs with their own and eventually just pretending to be statues as Malvolio walks around them
2018 RSC Antonio wears a green carnation – Wildean symbol of homosexuality
2018 RSC Victorian Malvolio is blatantly racistOrsino is portrayed with Byronic curls
Rodes’ theory – mid point sums up the play Feste: “I will conster to them whence you come. Who you are and what you would are out of my welkin—I might say “element,” but the word is overwornn*.”

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