Our last get together was good. We discussed casually Twelfth Night. We tried to find an American equivalent to the twelve Christmas celebration that Shakespeare used as the backdrop. We don’t really have a festival of opposites where, for a day, servants are masters, absurdity is normality, etc. We have Mardi Gras, and students have Spring Break. But those are niche celebrations, one being local to New Orleans, the other narrowly confined to students who can afford to go on Spring Break.
For me, understanding the play’s context would be integral for teaching it. How else could students even begin to understand a story whose language is a bit obtuse? That’s when Bob brought up a good point about the need to have a visceral rather than intellectual reaction. This play is built heavily upon the festive mood of the year. Its absurdity makes sense within the part-religious, part-bacchanalian framework. Bob talked about how it’d be good to help students identify with the whimsicality of the story more so than its intellectualness.
Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s problem plays. The main characters fall in love. But no one actually earns their love. Mood and circumstance dictate action. The play is poetic and has elements worth discussing. But Shakespeare doesn’t seem to be putting forth a clear message or philosophy that many of his other plays provide. This is why Bob talks about the importance of emphasizing feeling. Even thoughts about feelings can teach. And theories are seldom born in the void.
Speaking of students and Shakespeare, our group also talked about the Amanda Bynes movie She’s the Man, which is apparently an adaptation of the play in a high school setting. I do find Amanda Bynes’ cheeriness rather delightful, but I’ve never seen it (although Nichole admitted to watching it twice in a 24 hr span). I imagine the appeal with both the play and its younger film-adapted cousin is that they, like the twelve night Christmas festival, help us cope with the absurdity of life by allowing us to purposely court absurdity in a controlled context.
Next book: T.H. White’s The Once and Future King