Print ISBN: 978-1-63700-728-0
# of Pages: 300
# of Volumes: 1
Print List Price: $105
e-ISBN: 978-1-63700-729-7
eBook User Price: $105
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Critical Insights: Twelfth Night, or What You Will

Free Online Access to the Salem Press/Grey House Platform
January 2024


Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s most-loved but also most complex comedies. Frequently performed on stage as well as commonly filmed and televised, this play is famously funny but also nuanced, presenting abundant humor of various shades (from slapstick to subtle, raucous to witty) while also presenting nuanced shades of darkness and many reasons for serious reflection.

Malvalio—at once the most ridiculous and most abused character in the play—is, for both reasons, often the most memorable; his role has been interpreted and performed in numerous ways, and the play itself has provoked diverse and often conflicting reactions. This volume will explore this notoriously gender-bending comedy from numerous perspectives, offering historical, comparative, stylistic, psychological, and philosophical perspectives (among many others) while also examining the ways the work has been performed in various media and eras. 

This volume, like all the others in the Critical Insights series, is divided into several distinct sections. It begins with several introductory essays (including this one), then presents four contextual essays, then offers ten individual “critical readings,” and finally concludes with various “resources” designed to supply readers with further historical and bibliographical information. The volume next offers biographies of the editor and contributors and finally concludes with a comprehensive index of names, titles, and topics.

The present volume opens with an introductory essay by Nicolas Tredell, a distinguished British scholar, who examines Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night in terms of several different kinds of characters who appear within the play. These include women, tricksters, clod-poles, gulls, clowns, and lovers. In particular, Tredell’s essay “explores key elements of humor and pathos in Twelfth Night as they emerge in its specific words, actions and situations and feed into its overall themes.” He first focuses on the play’s “wit and wordplay, as exemplified in the initial duel of wit and words between Maria and Feste, which Maria wins” and then goes on “to consider the kinship between the Fool and the Trickster” before finally exploring “pathos in the play as evoked through the figures of Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Malvolio, Antonio, and Feste.”

Tredell’s essay is followed by a deliberately brief biography of Shakespeare by the volume editor.

This leads into the Critical Context section of the book which contains the following essays:

  • Twelfth Night on Film by Christopher Baker

  • Twelfth Night: Recent Critical Perspectives by Melissa Anderson

  • Why Are Malvolio’s Cross-Gartered Yellow Stockings Funny? Showing the Sun with a Lamp on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night by Edwin Wong

  • “It . . . makes him stand to and not stand to”:Tragicomic Juxtaposition in Macbeth, Twelfth Night,and Much Ado About Nothing by Matthew M. Thiele

Following the four Critical Context essays is the Critical Readings section of this book, which contains the following essays:

  • Important Editions of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night by Robert C. Evans

  • Religion in Twelfth Night: A Critical Overview by Brandon Schneeberger

  • The Puzzling Title of Twelfth Night, or What You Will by James Hirsh

  • “Who governs here?”: Government, Sovereignty,and the Unruly Household in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night by Matthew M. Thiele

  • Malvolio Annoyed: Early Illustrations of the Rowdy Party Scene in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night by Robert C. Evans

  • Malvolio Deceived: Early Illustrations of the Letter and Stocking Scenes in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night by Jordan Bailey

  • The 1998 Live Production of Twelfth Night at Lincoln Center: A Survey of Reviews by Eric J. Sterling

  • The 2002 and 2012 All-Male Twelfth Night Productions at the Open-Air Globe: Their Critical Reception by Robert C. Evans

  • The 2012–13 All-Male Twelfth Night at Two Indoor Theaters: Its Critical Reception by Robert C. Evans

  • Playing Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night for Laughs in Four Major “Live” Productions by Robert C. Evans

Additional Resources Include:

  • Chronology of William Shakespeare’s Life

  • Works by William Shakespeare

  • Bibliography

  • About the Editor

  • Contributors

  • Index

The Critical Insights Series distills the best of both classic and current literary criticism of the world’s most studies literature. Edited and written by some of academia’s most distinguished literary scholars, Critical Insights: Twelfth Night, or What You Will provides authoritative, in-depth scholarship that students and researchers will rely on for years. This volume is destined to become a valuable purchase for all.

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