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Twelfth Night. William Shakespeare and Early Modern Comedy. William Shakespeare (who was a real person). 1564-1616; born and died in Stratford-Upon-Avon; lived in London from late 1580’s to 1611, when he retires to Stratford Elizabeth I reigns 1558-1603 James II reigns 1603-1625

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Twelfth Night


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twelfth night

Twelfth Night

William Shakespeare and Early Modern Comedy

william shakespeare who was a real person
William Shakespeare(who was a real person)
  • 1564-1616; born and died in Stratford-Upon-Avon; lived in London from late 1580’s to 1611, when he retires to Stratford
    • Elizabeth I reigns 1558-1603
    • James II reigns 1603-1625
  • Some Contemporary Literary Figures
    • Ben Jonson; Christopher Marlowe; Philip Sidney; Edmund Spenser
dramatic comedy since the roman empire
Dramatic Comedy since the Roman Empire
  • Mixes upper and lower class characters
  • Begins in disorder and ends in marriage
  • Female and Male roles
  • Socially conservative in that it reinforces ideas the upper class and men are wiser than lower class and women
    • Does this by exploring and then rejecting the notion that lower class and women can be wise
dramatic conventions
Dramatic Conventions
  • Tragedy
    • Tragic hero is the central figure, and play concerns itself mostly with high ranking people.
    • Play opens in happiness and ends in death or destruction.
  • Comedy
    • Comic heroine is the central figure, and play concerns itself with different social ranks
    • Play opens with problem or trouble and ends with marriage(s).
the early modern stage
The Early Modern Stage
  • Costumes are dominant design element
  • Two possible stages
    • Public outdoor stage such as Globe
      • Sunlit inexpensive afternoon performances
      • Minimal (or no) scenery
      • 2 or 3 levels of playing space
      • 2 possible entrances
    • Private indoor stage such as a banqueting hall
      • Torchlit for evening performances
      • Minimal scenery
      • 1 or 2 levels of playing space
      • 1 or 2 possible entrances
twelfth night1
Twelfth Night
  • Performed for the first time in the Middle Temple Hall in the Christmas Season (after Christmas) in (probably) 1602.

As you read Twelfth Night,

you are likely to find that it

is a trifle “snobby” in its dislike of social climbers.Its original audience was

gentlemen and it was

written for a private theatre.

shakespeare s comedies
Shakespeare’s Comedies
  • Begin in disorder and end in order
  • Written earlier than most of his tragedies
  • His strongest comedies are written when his company had 2 very strong boy actors for the 2 female leads
    • Midsummer Night’s Dream; Merchant of Venice; Much Ado about Nothing; As You Like It; Twelfth Night
  • Tend to “privilege” the female roles in terms of # of lines; follows the female roles and shares their views/problems with the audience
romantic comedies
Romantic Comedies
  • Likely to be set in both “the green world” and the urban world
    • The urban world opens the play and is the seat of disorder and trouble that instigates the plot. The urban world is controlled by men.
    • The green world is the setting in which the troubles of the urban world are solved and which allows the happy ending. The green world is often a locus of female power.
  • Twelfth Night breaks this pattern by being entirely set in the green world, although it refers to the urban world.
cross dressing
Cross-Dressing
  • Every Shakespearean play features cross-dressing as all feminine roles are played by male actors
  • Five plays feature feminine roles in which the character disguises herself as a man.
    • Julia in Two Gentlemen of Verona 1594
    • Portia in Merchant of Venice 1595-6
    • Rosalind in As You Like it 1599
    • Viola in Twelfth Night 1601-2
    • Imogen in Cymbeline 1609-10