TWELFTH NIGHT, OR WHAT YOU WILL



Peter Herrick as “Antonio”

WHAT COUNTRY, FRIENDS, IS THIS? by Beverly Bullock

Shakespeare set Twelfth Night in Illyria, modern Croatia, then a province of the Venetian Republic. Illyria had been Venetian for 600 years by Shakespeare's time: in the year 600 the Doge of Venice had added to his titles that of "Dux Dalmatiae" ("Duke of Dalmatia", Dalmatia being another name for the western Adriatic coast). Elizabethans were fascinated by Venice, seeing in her a great sea power ruled from a small waterbound base, a model to emulate in their post-Armada glory. Shakespeare set almost a quarter of his plays in Venice and the surrounding Veneto, which includes Verona, Padua and Illyria. Illyria itself had been associated for centuries with that terror of any maritime society: pirates. The many inlets and islands of the Illyrian coast provided excellent cover from which to disrupt the rich trade between Byzantium, gateway to the riches of the East, and Venice (and from thence, England). In "Henry VI Part 2" Shakespeare refers to "Bergulus, the strong Illyrian pirate," and in "Measure For Measure" the Ragusan "Ragozine, a most notorious pirate" (Ragusa being a modern Dubrovnik). Which brings us to Antonio, the pirate of Twelfth Night.


Kristen Hammer as "Viola"


We learn to know him as generous, loving and brave, but we also learn, in Act V, that he's a fierce fighter, responsible for the mutilation in battle of the noble Orsino's young kinsman. Antonio's position in Twelfth Night is curious, and may remind us of those two outsiders Shylock and Othello. Harold Bloom is just one of the scholars who believe that Shakespeare himself played Antonio (and also the Antonio in "The Merchant of Venice", who also loves and loses a man to the heroine). It is Antonio who rescues Sebastian and delivers him to Illyria at the very moment when the plot particularly needs Sebastian: the Countess Olivia has fallen deeply in love with "Cesario", Sebastian's disguised twin sister Viola, and the promised happy ending cannot be achieved without this young man being delivered up to become, with his sister, a member of the Illyrian community, while Antonio departs, the only character who will not-- cannot-- stay in Illyria-Elysium.









John Montague as the “First Officer”

 

©2004-2010 ShakespeareNYC

CLICK TO EXPLORE LINKS

FOR THIS PRODUCTION

MAIN PAGEshapeimage_1_link_0
CAST & PRODUCTION TEAMTWELFTH_NIGHT_CAST.htmlshapeimage_2_link_0
SYNOPSISTWELFTH_NIGHT_SYNOPSIS.htmlshapeimage_3_link_0
PHOTO GALLERYTWELFTH_NIGHT_Gallery.htmlshapeimage_4_link_0