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Sunny comedy with hints of darkness
on 22 January 2011
Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare's liveliest and most accessible romantic comedies - but also deals intelligently with issues of gender, sexual desire, class and social harmony.
The enchanting story of Viola dressed as the page Cesario, with whom both Orsino and Orsino's erstwhile object of desire fall in love, is filled with rapturous poetry that articulates love, desire and romantic melancholy. But these central relationships are modulated by Malvolio's desire for his mistress Olivia, the bawdy comedy of Sir Toby Belch, and Antonio's unrequited desire for Viola's twin, Sebastian.
Ultimately social harmony is restored - but the portrait of Malvolio gives us an insight, perhaps, into how characters such as Edmund in King Lear, and Iago are created.
So a sunny, feel-good romantic comedy, but shaded lightly by a darker tinge.