Twelfth Night [With Headphones] (Plays of William Shakespeare) (Pre-Recorded Audio Player)
This play revolveshumorously, affectionately, and at times painfully around the follies of youth as it pursues love and happiness in a world, which is half-fantasy, half-real. Disguise and deception may paradoxically lead to truth, as in the infatuated Orsino's eventual discovery that he really loves Viola/Cesario, not Olivia, but they are equally capable of producing pain and humiliation: Malvolio, 'sick of self-love', is tricked by his own vanity into believing that his lady is besotted with him, and must suffer for this foolish presumption. Sir Andrew Aguecheek, the butt of everyone's humor, was 'adored once'; and what are we to make of the enigmatic, melancholic Feste? Some directors like to develop the faint hints that he nurses a hopeless passion for Olivia (who certainly seems dependent on him), and his songs lend a distinctively plangent note to the play, with their stress on transience and death'youth's a stuff will not endure' 'for the rain it raineth every day'. His often sardonic, reductive commentary on the behavior of those around him is, however, challenged by Viola, who seems to promise a maturity and constancy not found in othersher poignant evocation of one who 'never told her love' and 'sat like Patience on a monument / Smiling at grief' counters the flightiness and self-indulgence around her. Yet we should beware of making something too serious and solemn out of this most captivating playfor all its darker hints and sharp mockery of folly, the prevailing impression is surely positive: the puritanical world of Malvolio, where there 'shall be no more cakes and ale', is rejected, as is the distorted world of the infatuated lover Orsino who, at the start of the play, hasnot yet learned to understand his own heart, and would prefer to cultivate his emotional suffering'give me excess of it'.