The end of Twelfth Night? Happy or problematic? Aug 8, 2002 11:01:47 GMT -5
Post by Ganymede on Aug 8, 2002 11:01:47 GMT -5
Juliet said:Yet, Ganymede, I disagree with you on the subject of Orsino and Caesario/Viola. I admit the whole addressing Viola as a boy until the end of the play is a bit strange, but I would explain that as merely an indication and acceptance of the fact that Viola, of necessity, is still wearing her boy's clothes until the end of the play (unlike Rosalind, who changes) Shakespeare, it seems to me, knows that he doesn't have time for Viola to change, so he decides to brave it out and write this slight incongruity into the script, rather than ignore it.
Somehow I can't believe that Shakespeare would make such a decision lightly. It seems to me that his decision to keep Viola in male garb is very intentional, and having Orsino call Viola "Cesario" even after he knows of her "true" identity is also intentional and highly suggestive. Orsino says he will call Viola by her boy name until she is again in her "woman's weeds," even though her body underneath is female. Here the clothing is emphasized over the body underneath, which would not incidentally would actually have been male anyway (a boy actor). Throughout, Orsino has been attracted to images over actual people, and I would argue is most attracted to the image of himself as unrequited lover. He forms himself as the epitomic lover, and sabotages his own quest for love by sending boys to do his wooing for him. In Cesario he sees himself reflected back at him. The scenes where they most seem to connect are the ones in which they share their feelings of love, Orsino's supposedly for Olivia and Cesario's somewhat veiled feelings for Orsino. Orsino's attraction is revealed when he asks about Cesario's sister, onto whom Orsino could transfer his feelings (if he can't have Cesario, a boy, then why not his sister?). But this sister does not exist, except in Cesario. But Orsino has trouble accepting the girl underneath because she is more of an illusion than the disguise is. Viola as Viola only appears in the very beginning of the play, and Orsino never sees her this way. In his mind, Cesario is much more real. In the end, he has trouble letting this disguise go, as perhaps does Viola herself. We don't see her immediately running off to change.
Shakespeare could have written this ending any number of ways. In As You Like It, for example, Rosalind concocts a "magical" way for her to transform back into her female garb. In that play, the transformation fits. Orlando has seen Rosalind as Rosalind and has fallen in love with her as a woman, at least initially. In Twelfth Night, Orsino has fallen love with Viola as Cesario and would necessarily have trouble letting the disguise go.
Of course, as always, this is just my opinion. And obviously, depending on the staging, different details could be emphasized. I really enjoyed Nunn's Twelfth Night, even if it didn't exactly reflect my interpretation. Noticeably, Nunn adds a wedding scene, in which we see Viola back in a dress, which perhaps reflects the problematic nature of Shakespeare's original ending. Also, having a female play Viola definitely changes things!