William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview

Nature’s Bias

Ruth Nevo

Twelfth Night has been called a “masterpiece of recapitulation.” Twins, reunions, rivalries, love’s tamings and matings, mistakings and unmaskings, the ladder of language upon whose lower rungs ambitious nitwits bark their skinny shins, a (finally) domesticated Falstaffian rogue, an impostor whose posturing is an oblique and distorted mirror image of the protagonists’ besetting deficiencies (even his name is a dark anagram of his mistress’s), the page disguise, the partnership of lady and mocking fool. It is familiar Shakespeare country, and the Terentian itinerary is familiar, too, save in one important respect. There are no interfering or match-making parents in Twelfth Night, as there are virtually none in As You Like It as well. Rosalind’s father, important as he is … is not to be thought of while there are young men like Orlando about in the forest, and the father of the Illyrian twins provides no more than the canonical mode for identifications. Fathers will return, to be sure, in the tragedies and the romances, but they are at present in eclipse, leaving the field to the initiatives and the entanglements of their daughters, and when these are scarcely adequate, to great creating Nature herself. As Sebastian says:

So come it, lady, you have been mistook;
But Nature to her bias drew in that

(5.1.259–60)

and truly a creative and providential musicianship is required to compose the oceanic Illyrian eros, as Illyria’s Duke intimates in his very first speech:

From Comic Transformation in Shakespeare. © 1980 by Ruth Nevo. Methuen, 1980.

-27-

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William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Editor’s Note vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Shakespeare’s Many Sorts of Music 7
  • Malvolio and Class Ideology in Twelfth Night 19
  • Nature’s Bias 27
  • Choosing the Right Mate in Twelfth Night 41
  • Plays and Playing in Twelfth Night 47
  • The Principle of Recompense in Twelfth Night 61
  • Language, Theme, and Character in Twelfth Night 75
  • The Orchestration of Twelfth Night - The Rhythm of Restraint and Release 87
  • Shakespeare’s Realism- Viola 109
  • Shakespeare’s Poetical Character in Twelfth Night 129
  • Chronology 147
  • Contributors 149
  • Bibliography 151
  • Acknowledgments 155
  • Index 157
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