Friday, July 24, 2009


One of the fun things about Shakespeare is that the stage directions are minimal, but there's lots that can happen in staging a play to really make it work. Modern playwrights tend to give pretty full stage directions, but Shakespeare is writing in a different tradition.

That means it's fun to think of staging business that makes the audience think about the play.

At the end of Twelfth Night, we have one of those scenes where pretty much everyone comes on stage at some point (which makes it an interesting scene to think about in terms of doubling parts. At 5.1.160, Sir Andrew enters, having been beaten up by Sebastian (though he thinks it was Cesario). A moment later, Sir Toby and Feste come on, Sir Toby also having been beaten up. They have about 20 lines, before Olivia says "Get [Sir Toby] to bed, and let his hurt be looked to" (5.1.192).

In F, there's no stage direction, but logically some folks need to leave. The New Cambridge edition (Ed. Elizabeth Story Donno) gives an exuent of Sir Toby, Feste, Fabian, and Sir Andrew, which makes sense.

The next we hear of Sir Toby, he's married to Maria (5.1.434).

The question is, how do you run the bit with the exits?

Do they just leave together, with Feste and Fabian helping the two injured characters?

Or can we play with it? Olivia's entrance says "Enter Olivia and Attendants" (5.1.85SD), but doesn't specify the attendants. If we have Maria in attendance (which makes sense in terms of Maria's "job" as her servant, then when Sir Toby comes on all injured, we could have Maria go to him, show concern, and help him off. That sets up Feste's information about them marrying.

What about Sir Andrew? Does he wander off alone? In a different direction? Does anyone bother to help him?

What happens if you take a waiting gentlewoman from Olivia's attendants (we have plenty of attendants, what with this being a high school camp and all) and have her start looking after Sir Andrew when he comes in wounded? Perhaps she can take off a scarf and wrap it around his arm or something. If she leaves with him, then there's another pairing, which makes for a nice little extra-scriptural moment.

Sir Andrew's an idiot, but he was adored once, and might be a little less idiotic if someone with a touch of sense were involved. And he's fairly rich, which makes him a potential marriage partner even if he's a total loser (and he's not, I don't think).

We still have Malvolio stomping off, but Orsino sends after him, because they need him, as we all need accountants and such. But Malvolio still stands out; we don't need Sir Andrew to play that role (Antonio stands out, too, of course, but differently).

I'm wondering if those of you who've seen different productions of the play have thoughts about Sir Toby's and Sir Andrew's exits?

1 comment:

  1. I'll need to think about your question here and I will do and come back to you but while I'm thinking about it I thought I'd tell you about the most interesting and chilling treatment I ever saw of Malvolio in this final scene. He'd been played as very smooth, very suave, very sly and after the tricks played against him had been revealed he took a deep breath and then 'appeared' to have accepted that he was the butt of all this humour and to be prepared to continue to serve. But, as he went the rounds handing out drinks he paused at the front of the stage and very quietly, in a very sinister manner, delivered his line about being revenged on the whole pack of them. It was the only time I've ever believed a Malvolio would carry out his threat. It was really chilling. It was at Stratford, but not the RSC. It was a company called Cheek By Jowl. I'm not certain if they're still in existence. I must check that out.