The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Sweet Transvestite

Do you remember 2006? Me neither. But that was the year I wrote these reviews of BBC Shakespeares.


And now... the *not-quite complete which Shakespeare comedies are like which TV sitcoms guide*

The Comedy Of Errors - Allo Allo
The Taming of the Shrew - Kiss Me, Kate
The Two Gentlemen Of Verona - The Likely Lads
Love's Labour's Lost - Saved By The Bell (The College Years)
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Rentaghost
The Merchant Of Venice - Rising Damp
The Merry Wives Of Windsor - Keeping Up Appearances
Much Ado About Nothing - Coupling
As You Like It - The Good Life
Measure For Measure - The New Statesman
The Tempest - Gilligan's Island
Othello - Love Thy Neighbour
King Lear - One Foot In The Grave

and Twelfth Night? Well, Twelfth Night is the 'Bells' episode of Blackadder II. Because one welcome by-product of doing this 'Shakespearewatch' has been that it gives a newappreciation and insight of some of the subtle stuff that Blackadder was doing. Not simply in terms of quotations - 'Money' quoting Richard II and King Lear, for instance - or in-jokes, but in the plots themselves. 'The Black Adder' is clearly a parody of the (then-recent) BBC adaptation of the Henry VI's and Richard III, though of course there's bits from other plays in there as well - Macbeth's witches, Hamlet's ghost at the feast, and so on. It's my theory that you can sort-of tell which episodes of Blackadder II are by Richard Curtis, because 'Bells' and 'Money' feel quite close to the first series, and are quite tightly-plotted and clever, whereas 'Potato' and 'Chains' feel Ben Elton - knob gags for the sake of knob gags and more freewheeling, improvisational in approach.

But Twelfth Night is, pretty much, the whole 'Kate... it's short for Bob' plot; a girl disguised as a boy working as a servant, falling in love with her boss, and so on. I realise it's not as if Twelfth Night is the only play that has ever done that plot, but even some of the jokes are the same - the fact that Viola makes a very unconvincing boy is constantly remarked upon - 'he is very well-favoured, and speaks very shrewishly; one would think his mother's milk were scarce out of him' - and on several occasions she accidentally lets slip that she is a girl, only to correct herself.... 'What I as secret as a maidenhead...' 'I am all the daughters of my father's house... and all the brothers too.' She even does the same love-sick doe-eyed 'my lord' business when she's hang with the Duke. It's a total rip.

Speaking of total rips, much as I love this play it is pretty much a reworking of familiar themes. Not so much a greatest hits as a compilation of overlooked album tracks, rerecorded and resequenced to better effect. There's the shipwreck and twins and hilarious mistaken identities from The Comedy Of Errors; there's the girl dressed as a boy delivering love-letters to a girl from Two Gentlemen Of Verona; there's a girl falling in love with the girl dressed as a boy, and the girl dressed as a boy giving the boy she loves lessons in the art of chat-up from As You Like It; Sir Toby Belch is a repainted Falstaff, Maria is a touched-up Mistress Quickly and the ritual humiliation and mistreatment of Malvolio ploughs an equally earthy furrow as that of Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor (but here, thankfully, relegated to a comic relief b-plot). It doesn't borrow from Midsummer or Much Ado; I suspect because Shakespeare felt he had pretty much knocked the 'two sets of lovers' pitch out of the park; but with Twelfth Night I get a sense that he is taking another swing at comic ideas which hadn't quite come off, and interweaving them together into a new and more satisfying plot pie.

Because, structurally, this play is brilliant. It's genius. It's up there with Midsummer and Much; it's fast-paced but elegant, everything is developed sufficiently, the resolution is satisfactory, and each scene is precisely as long as it needs to be, no longer and no shorter. All of the comic ideas are mined to their full potential and then not mined any more. It's a close as Shakespeare gets to the Feydeau ideal of farce in that the humour arises from the situation only, and there is nothing in the play that isn't there to serve the situation. And, like Coupling, the funniest moments are where the characters are behaving perfectly sensibly and we're laughing at them because we know something they don't (dramatic irony). After the rather breezy, ambling As You Like it, Twelfth Night feels tight and precise, full-hearted and worked-out, economic and polished.

That polish is reflected - it's a shiny reflective polish - in the boiled-down dialogue, where the compression of meaning results in rapid-fire exchanges that are both profound, but also beautiful and evocative, and basically he gets more across in a few well-chosen sentences than he does in whole paragraphs of flighty, meandering, pre-amble, amble and post-amble in some of his other less disciplined efforts.

The real evidence of this 'polish' is just how many famous quotes there are in this play. It's chocca. It hits the ground running with 'If music be the food of love, play on' and then there's a feeling of 'Ping! I've heard that line before somewhere' roughly every four or five minutes or so.

'Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them', that's one. 'Out of the jaws of death', that's another. 'I am a great eater of beef, and I believe that does harm to my wit' - Shakespeare predicts the advent of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease there. 'Is it a world to hide virtues in?' 'Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage.' 'Not to be a-bed after midnight is to be up betimes.' 'Present mirth hath present laughter...' '...a horse of that colour.' 'Our fancies are more giddy and unfirm.' 'I am slain by a fair cruel maid.' 'Love sought is good, but given unsought is better.' 'If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction'. 'Leave thy vain bibble-babble.' 'Thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.' 'The rain it raineth every day.' 'Laugh yourself into stitches.' 'Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.' (Bet you thought that was from a history or a tragedy) 'It's an open-ended power-boosted transmat beam.' Ping! Ping! Ping!

Okay, so it's not going to beat Hamlet on the ping-ometer, or the Star-Trek-episode-title-meter for that matter, but if nothing else Twelfth Night deserves high praise because it gives us the word 'hobnob.'

Never mind the biscuits, I hear you cry - which stars of sitcom and Doctor Who are in it? Well, in the Doctor Who camp there's Maurice 'Stotzy' Roeves as Antonio and a frighteningly young Danny 'Mr Jefferson' Webb in the crucial role of 'Servant'. Sitcom-wise, there's Annette 'Oh, Victor!' Crosbie as Maria, Felicity 'Oh, Jerry' Kendall as Viola, Robert 'Oh, Nick!' Lindsay as Fabian and Trevor 'Oh no no no no no no no no' Peacock as Feste. So a lot of familiar BBC faces knocking about the studio.

I mentioned earlier about Viola being an unconvincing boy (but although others remark on how unboyish 'Cesario' is, it's never to the taking-the-piss extent of As You Like). In order to effect a disguise as a boy, Felicity Kendall... er... dresses in green and puts on a big floppy hat. She's not hugely boyish. I think it's the big hair. Add to that her coquettish, husky voice and, well... I think it's underlining the point of the joke, which is that Viola is clearly the most female-looking boy you have ever seen in your life.

That said, when Viola's identical twin brother turns up, he is also dressed in green and has big hair.

The whole twin business creates a problem with the staging. If it were down to me, I'd do what I'd do for The Comedy of Errors and have one actor playing both parts - but in different hats. Admittedly that might make things tricky when they are both on stage at once but once you've given me time to think it through I'm sure I could come up with an ingenious solution.

Our story begins with the Duke Orsino in love-sick misery. 'If music be the food of love, play on'. He wants to hear sad songs to wallow in. If it were down to me, I'd kick off the play with a lute version of 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now'. Orsino's problem is that he's in love with Olivia, a nice girl, pretty, but she's refusing to see him because she's grieving for her dead brother. She plans to grieve for seven years which is a touch on the thorough side - Orsino remarks as such - and a real bind as it takes her out of circulation.

Meanwhile, on the shore of this made-up kingdom of Illyria, Viola stumbles ashore accompanied by the Captain of her ship. Her ship's just sunk for no adequately explored reason, and after the Captain explains about Olivia grieving for her dead brother, he f*cks off out of the play, never to be seen or heard of again. Having been dragged up on deck, Viola decides she enjoyed the experience so much she will be dragged up on land as well, and with a slap of the thigh decides she will cross-dress and woo the Duke, Orsino. Hurrah!

Meanwhile, in Olivia's house, Olivia's Uncle, Toby Belch, is chatting to Maria, Olivia's servant. He brings up the subject of Olivia mourning for her dead brother OKAY WE'VE GOT THAT BIT. Toby's invited his old mate Sir Andrew Aguecheek to stay, because he thinks he can set him up with Olivia. Enter Sir Andrew Aguecheek, a sort of Joe Lidster figure, very amusing when he is drunk and so very amusing for pretty much twenty-four hours a day.

Meanwhile - no, not meanwhile, suddenly it's three months later - Viola has been taken on as a 'live-in chum' by the Duke. And she's fallen in love with him, which is handy, because she planned to do just that only two scenes ago. The Duke, though, as we know, is still hankering after Olivia and, because he's been forbidden from Olivia's presence, he asks Viola to go and chat her up on his behalf.

Meanwhile back in Olivia's house her pet clown, Feste, is twatting about. Feste could be more amusing - he sings a bit too much, and most of his jokes seem to be based on deliberate misunderstanding and pedantry. But he's not stupid - rather like what Shakespeare was failing to achieve with Thershites in Troy and Cress, Feste is a wise fool, and knocks out profound epithets and syllogisms. Just in case there is anyone in the audience who has turned up late, he also re-caps the whole 'she's in mourning for her brother' plot point. ENOUGH!

Toby Belch tries to persuade her to see Aguecheek but she refuses. The next character to enter is Malvolio, another of Olivia's servants. Now Malvolio is an interesting character. He's pompous, that's his keynote, he considers himself educated, high-minded and refined, and god's gift to the fairer sex. He's like a cross between Captain Peacock and Frasier Crane. He doesn't get on with the other servants in the Olivia household because he considers them crude and inferior. Malvolio is a tricky character, though, because for what follows to work, we have to sympathise with him and yet feel he is due his come-uppance. .

Enter Viola (as Cesario). Viola turns on the charm, chatting up Olivia on Duke Orsino's behalf. She doesn't hold back. She's a little bit cheeky (actually she's very cheeky, she looks like a kleptomaniac hamster), a little bit randy, a little bit dandy, a little bit rough, a little bit smooth, a little bit flirty and a little bit dirty. Everything that gives a thoroughbred totty like Olivia the illicit fidgets. Viola, being a posh girl herself, knows what posh girls like.

However, her flirtation backfires, when, sure enough, Olivia falls in love with her. She thinks Cesario is a bit of a dish. A 'Cesario salad' if you like. I WILL DO THAT JOKE AGAIN LATER.

Act II, and we're back at the unconvincing forced-perspective shoreline, and who should turn up but Sebastian, Viola's twin brother. He is convinced she died in the shipwreck three months ago. By one of those convenient coincidences which Shakespeare never really bothers to disguise, he's heading for the count of Duke Orsino. Antonio, Sebastian's sailor chum, isn't too keen on that - he had a bit of a run-in with the Duke a while back, there were some galleys involved and things got nasty. But he agrees to accompany Sebastian. Why?

Because Antonio is the Biggest Gay In The World.

It's not even subtle. It's as bold as brass. He just follows Sebastian around like a love-sick puppy, telling him how much he adores him, how handsome he is, and he doesn’t need to work out. He's like thingy from Big Brother last year - Craig? Yes, he is that annoying. 'I do adore thee' 'My willing love, the rather by these arguments of fear, set forth in your pursuit.' I'm surprised it's not more well-known, to be honest - there is no ambiguity here, this is a full-on, no-holds-barred example of rampant homosexuality in the 16th century. I mean, yes they do make a point of saying that Sebastian looks a little bit girly but nevertheless... he's a boy.

But, like that disco-dancer that Craig was pining after - Anthony? - Sebastian isn't having any of it. He's not that way inclined. He makes it clear to Antonio that he doesn't want to get nautical on the poop deck, he is not 'in the navy', and that he has absolutely no taste for seamen. He seems slightly embarrassed by Antonio's amorous attentions, to be honest. So like that guy in Big Brother.

Bear in mind, though, that Antonio is not effeminate. He's beaten off more than his share of cabin boys. Though it still seems odd that he is being played by Stotz. I can't help feeling that somebody was trying to downplay the whole trouser enthusiasm angle. Shame.

But remember Sebastian and Antonio, they're important but they're also not in this play much and we won't see them again for about an hour.

There's another scene with the Duke and Viola in this act, which doesn't really push things forward but has a lot of fun with Viola telling the Duke how she (as a boy) is desperately in love with a girl of about his age and appearance (i.e. the Duke). There's some amusing, albeit complicated, business where they discuss whether boy love is stronger than girl love, i.e. whether the Duke's unrequited love for Olivia is more steadfast than Viola's unrequited love for the Duke, and how impossible it is for either of them to give up. Viola almost lets her secret identity slip again (kind of like the time Superman accidentally signed a cheque as C. Kent) with 'My father had a daughter lov'd a man, as it might be, were I a woman...?'

The rest of this act, though, concerns Malvolio. Malvolio interrupts a raucous party downstairs at Olivia's place, where Belch, Aguecheek, Feste and Maria are having a bit of a knee's-up. Malvolio tells them to keep the noise down and show a bit of a respect and threatens to give anyone who disobeys a slap round the chops. Then, the moment he's gone, Maria tells him to 'Go shake your ears' and she, together with Belch and Aguecheek and Feste plot their revenges. They enlist the help of Fabian, a passing bloke of no fixed personality.

What they will do is get Maria to write a love letter to 'M' - Maria has similar handwriting to Olivia, so if Malvolio should happen across the letter, he would presume it had been written by her. The letter is full of rather sarcastic praise for a man of Malvolio's character - basically telling him how wonderful he is ('Some are born great etc.'), telling him exactly what he wants to hear - and once they've got him hooked, they follow it up with Olivia saying how he should make his love known to her by

a) wearing his bright yellow socks
b) wearing the trousers with the loud check pattern
c) grinning a lot
d) be rude and condescending to his fellow servants

and if he does, then she will take him as her lover. Belch's plan being that if M is humiliated by appearing ridiculous under categories a) b) and c), he will also make the link that it's because he's already doing d) and stop being so rude and condescending to his fellow servants. They have 'O' flatter him by saying that he isn't normally rude and condescending, and so to pretend to be so would be an act diametrically opposite to his normal personality... like I said, it's sarcastic, but I haven't explained it very well; it comes across much more clearly in the play.

Anyway, Malvolio falls for it. D'oh.

Act III, and Viola (as Cesario) is back, chatting up Olivia. Olivia falls base-over-apex for 'Cesario' and decides to scrub the whole 'seven years of mourning' plan - she should put herself back on the market before her mangoes start to go off.

But, yes, lots more funny business with Olivia trying it on with Cesario, little realising that Cesario is a girl. You know the sort of thing - budging flirtatiously towards her on a bench, putting her hand on her knee, stroking her neck, adoring hanging-on-your-every-word gazes. Then you have Viola's 'oh shit, what have I got myself into?' horror as Olivia declares her undying love.

The reason why I think this play is so beautifully structured - probably the most well-plotted of all his comedies - is that we now have reached a point where there are six unrequited romances in equilibrium. That is:

Viola for Orsino
Orsino for Olivia
Olivia for Viola (aka Cesario Salad)


Aguecheek for Olivia
Malvolio for Olivia
Antonio for Sebastian

(Note: For completeness sake, there's also a bubbling-under romance between Belch and Maria. I say 'bubbling under', I mean 'not really referred to at all until a line that comes completely out of the blue right at the end of the play which mentions they have got married'.)

What is great is that from now on it’s the interaction of the various plot threads that upset the initial equilibrium which, with almost Wodehousian precision, resolve in a new, happy equilibrium of requited love. It's beautiful farce billiards as each bounce of the balls brings about a new comic situation, which sends another load of balls ricocheting which create a chaos out of which final stability emerges.

If only there were enough Violas to go around...

...and who should walk into town but Sebastian, a male dead-ringer for Viola. Hurrah! Knew he'd turn up eventually!

Our last complication is how Aguecheek intends to win over Olivia. He goes to Fabian for advice - mistake - and Fabian says that girls really go for the 'butch' type and he could win her over with an act of 'valour' i.e. picking a fight and winning a duel. Bear in mind that Aguecheek is not a million miles away from Constable Goodie in The Thin Blue Line - not gay as such, but a Walter the Softy type, not so much cowardly as liable to run into battle shouting 'Not the face! Not the face!' And who should Aguecheek pick a fight with? Well, it's obvious, isn't it? Viola.

Meanwhile, Belch's plan against Malvolio has been a huge success. Malvolio turns up at Olivia's wearing his bright yellow socks, his loud check trousers grinning like the winner of Gormless-Twat-Of-The-Year 1598. Olivia at first suspects Malvolio might have been overdoing it and advises him to try and get some rest. 'To bed? Ay, sweetheart - and I'll come to thee!' replies Malvolio. 'Jesus f*ck no!' cries Olivia.

She then concludes Malvolio is suffering from 'midsummer madness' and she instructs her Uncle, Toby Belch, to have him forcibly sectioned under part II of Ye Mentale Health Acte.

Next, in comes the Aguecheek plotline. Aguecheek has put together a note to challenge 'Cesario' to a duel. The note is rather vague about quite what it is 'Cesario' is supposed to have done to offend Aguecheek, but as Fabian sobserves, that's probably a good thing in terms of trying to stay on the right side of the law. The note is also rather feckless, as Aguecheek - trying to be macho - ends up sounding ridiculous.

Belch delivers the note to Viola, explaining it comes from a valiant knight and master swordsman. Learning she has been challenged to a duel, Viola is horrified. She cannot understand what she has done to offend Aguecheek, and offers to apologise but Belch is having none of it. Fabian then has a bit more fun winding Viola up - '[Aguecheek] is the most skilful, bloody and fatal opposite that you can possibly have found in any part of Illyria.' 'Oh shit, what have I got myself into', thinks Viola.

And then Belch returns to Aguecheek, telling him that 'Cesario' has accepted his challenge to a duel, and then winds up Aguecheek by informing him that 'Cesario' is a master swordsman - 'I had a pass with him, rapier, scabbard and all, and he gives me the stuck-in with such a mortal motion that it is inevitable... they say he has been fencer to the Sophy.'

'Oh shit, what have I got myself into', thinks Aguecheek. He also rather regrets the whole 'challenging to a fight to the death' plan - if he'd known he was challenging someone shit-hot with a rapier, he'd never have agreed to it.

And so Viola and Aguecheek prepare to duel. They draw their swords. Both of them are terrified of the other. In the BBC production, they even have a bit of fun with both duellists backing away so much that Toby Belch has to drag them both back into the fight. Irrespective of that, though, it's a wonderful comic conceit, of a girl dressed as a boy fighting like a girl and a boy dressed as a boy fighting like a girl.

Antonio enters, and, having heard Viola - who he thinks is Sebastian - say he is being forced into a fight against his will - draws his sword and leaps into the fray, attacking Aguecheek and/or Belch. Somebody calls the cops, though, and Antonio is dragged away to jail. He is, after all, a wanted man. As he is grabbed by the fuzz, he cries out for his dear 'chum' Sebastian to help him... and Viola realises that her brother is still alive! Antonio, though, thinks that when Viola claims not to know him, it his beloved Sebastian that is disowning him.

Bit of a cliff to end Act III on, eh? Now, as we've thrown the new ball of Sebastian onto the table for Act IV, let's watch these balls ricochet:

Sebastian bumps into Feste, who mistakes Sebastian for a 'Cesario' of his acquintance, but Sebastian tells Feste he's never met him before in his life and concludes that the people of this island are all a bit soft in the head and gives him money to go away. Click!

Enter Aguecheek, who also thinks Sebastian is 'Cesario'. Having realised that 'Cesario' is not much of a fighter, Aguecheek gathers his courage and slaps Sebastian across the cheek. Clack!

Sebastian punches him soundly in the face. Thwack!

With Aguecheek stunned, Belch threatens Sebastian at sword-point - so Sebastian draws his sword on Belch. Clack!

Enter Olivia, who, seeing 'Cesario' threatened by a sword, screams at her uncle to leave him alone. Belch f*cks off (taking Aguecheek with him) leaving Olivia alone with Sebastian. She tells him how much she loves him and she's had enough waiting and she wants to get into his pants RIGHT NOW.

Sebastian, who has only been in town five minutes, and has already been attacked twice and now has a beautiful woman declaring that she wants to marry him this afternoon, concludes with a wry, Asterix-style tap of the forehead that 'These Illyrians are crazy.'

Meanwhile Malvolio - remember him? - has been thrown into jail. Feste has a bit of fun with him, dressing up as a priest 'Sir Topas' who has come to visit 'Malvolio the lunatic'. He's a naughty taunter, is Feste, and as a result of this visit, Malvolio is starting to doubt his own sanity. Feste then pops outside and comes back in as himself, then, just for fun pops outside and has a chat with 'Sir Topas'.

But Belch comes along and tells him enough is enough; he's fallen out of favour with his niece Olivia and they had better end this prank before it goes too far, because if Olivia finds out what they've done to Malvolio, boy will she be pissed off.

So you see how the introduction of Sebastian has, indirectly, but through cause and effect, led to Malvolio being freed from jail. It's very clever stuff. Everything happens for a reason (which isn't something you can say about most Shakespeare comedies)..

Act V, and all the characters are brought together to Sort Things Out. Spurred on by Viola's advice, the Duke has finally decided to stop listening to Morrisey being performed on the lute, and to go and speak to Olivia for himself. Enter Viola and Antonio - the gay sailor chap, you will remember, who leapt into battle to save Viola thinking she was Sebastian.

Antonio explains about how he rescued Sebastian from the shipwreck - thinking he is with Sebastian and not with Viola - and says he has been with Sebastian night (and day) for the last three months. But that's impossible, says Orsino, this young roister-doister has been with me for the last three months.

Olivia enters, and is dismayed to see Viola (who she thinks is Cesario) with 'marble-breasted tyrant' Orsino - because she's just married him (that is, she has just married Sebastian thinking he is Cesario). Keep up! Viola claims to know nothing about this - she didn't agree to no wedding. Then Olivia calls for the priest, who confirms that Olivia has indeed just married Cesario, he was there, he did the bit with the ring and everything.

Aguecheek enters complaining of having been punched in the face by Cesario; Viola denies having laid a fist on him. Belch and Feste enter. They convince Olivia and Orsino that Aguecheek is talking shit because he's drunk.

Sebastian enters. Everyone steps back in amazement. But why how which when where whom THERE ARE TWO OF THEM!!!

Bear in mind nobody on Illyria has ever heard of the concept of twins before. They assume it must be witchcraft or the cunning use of a mirror. And, despite the fact that one of them is clearly Barbara out of The Good Life and the other one clearly isn't, they can't tell them apart.

Of course, that's part of the theatrical in-joke - that they should be the least identical-looking pair of identical twins possible. Yes, it's a ridiculous plot point, to have a boy and girl twin indistinguishable from each other... but the point is, implausible as it may be, it is followed through logically and rather than trying to bury the inherent silliness of the concept, Shakespeare has the audience in on the joke, having fun, playing with the idea that the people up on stage somehow can't tell the difference when everyone in the audience can.

As an example, take Sebastian's reaction to seeing Cesario. He doesn't think Cesario is his sister dressed as a boy. He thinks Cesario must be his long-lost twin brother. And then Viola has some fun with this, saying that she had a twin brother called Sebastian. After Sebastian briefly toys with the idea that his sister may have undergone a spontaneous gender reversal after falling in the sea, she explains to him clearly and simply and with diagrams that she has, in fact, merely put on some boys' clothes and is, in fact, still the female girl called Viola underneath.

Olivia doesn't seem to mind the fact she's been deceived - she's married someone who looks hot in pants, that's all she cares about. Orsino, meanwhile, realises that now that his 'chum' Cesario is in fact a lady with a ladies' bits that when she was talking about being in love with an older 'man' she meant him i.e. the Duke and well blimey knock me down with a feather if he doesn't realise he loves her back. Not quite as much as he loves her front, of course, but...

Oh, and Viola mentions that sailor from Act One again. Wondered what had happened to him. Malvolio had him thrown into jail, apparently.

Yes, we still have the whole Malvolio shenanigans to sort out. Enter Feste and Fabian, with the letter from Malvolio to Olivia apologising for having wronged her by wearing bright yellow socks and loud check trousers and grinning like a twat all the time. He explains he only did it because he thought that was what she wanted. 'But I never asked for that...' says Olivia, and has Malvolio brought onstage.

(Oh, and Olivia and the Duke settle their differences and decide to get on like brother and sister)

Enter Malvolio, holding the letter from the mysterious 'O' (the one written by Maria, remember? 'Some are born great...'?) He shows it to Olivia, who points out that the handwriting is different from hers, and that it was obviously written by Maria. She has a bit of a giggle at Malvolio's expense, and says 'that'll teach you to be so pompous!'

Malvolio fumes, but Fabian and Feste leap in to make light of the whole situation. Let's not fight, let's have a bit of a dance. And they do, and that's the end. A happy ending for everyone, except Malvolio, and Antonio, and a couple of others.

Note: One of my Shakespeare books claims that Malvolio's situation at the end of the play is 'never fully resolved'. I disagree, I think it is. I don't think his parting shot of 'I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you' is a hint at a forthcoming dark and grisly retribution - if anything, it's the equivalent of an episode of On The Buses ending on Blakey shouting out 'I'll get you Butler!'. It's not a serious threat, it's a cue to purse one's lips, pull back the shoulders and flounce primly offstage.

Oh, and one final thing. Remember what I said about Orsino being a Morrisey fan? Well, check out the lyrics to the final number. It's like a Smiths b-side:

When that I was and a little tiny boy, with a hey, ho, the wind and the rain
A foolish thing was but a toy
For the rain it raineth every day

But when I came to a man's estate, with a hey, ho, the wind and the rain
'gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate
For the rain it raineth every day

I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour with a hey, ho, the wind and the rain
I was looking for a job and then I found a job
For the rain it raineth every day

Next up: The Green Eyed-Monster vs The Beast with two Backs. Othello!

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