Twelfth Night, or What You Will

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of Shakespeare’s great comedies, which plays in the space between marriage, love and desire. By convention a wedding means a happy ending and here there are three, but neither Orsino nor Viola, Olivia nor Sebastian know much of each other’s true character and even the identities of the twins Viola and Sebastian have only just been revealed to their spouses to be. These twins gain some financial security but it is unclear what precisely the older Orsino and Olivia find enduringly attractive in the adolescent objects of their love. Meanwhile their hopes and illusions are framed by the fury of Malvolio, tricked into trusting his mistress Olivia loved him and who swears an undefined revenge on all those who mocked him.

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  • Pascale Aebischer No other episodes
    Professor of Shakespeare and Early Modern Performance Studies at the University of Exeter
  • Michael Dobson No other episodes
    Professor of Shakespeare Studies and Director of the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham
  • Emma Smith 6 episodes
    Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College, University of Oxford

Reading list

  • Shakespeare's Festive Comedies: A Study of Dramatic Form and Its Relation to Social Custom
    C.L. Barber (Princeton University Press, 2011) Google Books →
  • 'Queer Residue: Boy Actors' Adult Careers in Early Modern England'
    Simone Chess ( 2020)
  • What is a Playhouse? England at Play, 1520-1620
    Callan Davies (Routledge, 2023) Google Books →
  • Twelfth Night: Language and Writing
    Frances E. Dolan (Bloomsbury, 2014) Google Books →
  • Alternative Shakespeares
    John Drakakis (ed.) (Psychology Press, 2002) Google Books →
  • Shakespeare's Comedies: A Very Short Introduction
    Bart van Es (Oxford University Press, 2016) Google Books →
  • Inclusive Shakespeares: Identity, Pedagogy, Performance
    Sonya Freeman Loftis, Mardy Philippian and Justin P. Shaw (eds.) (Palgrave Macmillan, 2023) Google Books →
  • 'Transgender Reassessments of the Cross-Dressed Page in Shakespeare, Philaster, and The Honest Man's Fortune'
    Ezra Horbury ( 2022)
  • 'Crossdressing, the theatre, and gender struggle in early modern England'
    Jean Howard ( 1988) Google Books →
  • Boy Actors in Early Modern England: Skill and Stagecraft in the Theatre
    Harry McCarthy (Cambridge University Press, 2022) Google Books →
  • Impersonations: The Performance of Gender in Shakespeare's England
    Stephen Orgel (Cambridge University Press, 1996) Google Books →
  • Twelfth Night
    William Shakespeare (eds. Michael Dobson and Molly Mahood) (Penguin, 2005) Google Books →
  • Twelfth Night
    William Shakespeare (ed. Keir Elam) (Arden Shakespeare, 2008) Google Books →
  • This is Shakespeare: How to Read the World's Greatest Playwright
    Emma Smith (Pelican, 2019) Google Books →
  • Shakespeare's Adolescents: Age, Gender and the Body in Shakespearean Performance and Early Modern Culture
    Victoria Sparey (Manchester University Press, 2024) Google Books →

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Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. Shakespeare's Twelfth Night is one of the great comedies of world literature, toying with the space between marriage, love and desire.