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She’s the Man on the Twelfth Night: A Modern Movie and a Classic Play

24 Oct

In the comedy of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night it is ironic how there is a romantic happy ending but only tragedy is his romances – but that is the irony and beauty and also frustration of Shakespeare’s genres.

Now, although I’m sure while Shakespeare may have seemed ahead of his time, he would thoroughly appreciate being labeled as one of the original Rom-Com artists there were. And in this label of rom-com comes a modern twist on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night called She’s the Man. In case some were not aware – yes, Amanda Bynes’s She’s the Man was based on Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night.

Now, while some of the originality of the comedic twists and satire may be lost in this modern day version, what shocked me the most was the accuracy in its depiction – while I’m aware of this contradiction this portrays, let me elucidate.

Shakespeare was very direct in his meanings – even if they seemed hidden within his plays – about sexuality, gender and love. He always found a way to get across how blurry all the lines can seem when it came to one’s identity in romance and attraction and even personality. Twelfth Night was one of those plays that all the lines were so blurred that they almost came across as very clear. It was evident that his plays were meant to entertain – just as the modern day rom-com movie interpretation – but what it also revealed was the reality of mixed identity in all of us.

What the performance reveals by way of concealing in Twelfth Night as a text, is how the way one dresses suggests the existence of a sense of “truth.” It is with this suggestion that we are presented within this “truth,” “true” identity. On the same note, it elaborates on having more than one “true” identity. It is suggested that if the true self is a performed self, then this justifies moreover that the many layers of clothing one can put on, allows them to perform – reveal – many “true selves”.

In turn, in “She’s the Man” Viola of course changes her attire to match that of Sebastian’s, but in actuality she is only putting on another layer of her true self in order to fit in and succeed in love, in identity and in life. It’s not that her true layer is a man, it’s what her true layer as a man represents within the movie, and within the play.

More so, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, or, What You Will alludes this within the second title What You Will. This suggests that what you will – will power – yourself to do is who you are at that moment. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “will” as “desire, longing, and disposition” (OED). It is in this very definition of “will” meaning “disposition” that we see another suggested implication of the title meaning. So, What You Will could possibly translate into “What You Control”, and what one controls within this play are the clothes they put on. It is the tangible covering of the different layers of clothes that each character puts on that only reveals another “costume” or performance of themselves.

It is in this act of “will” that we see Viola try to take control of her identity, of her disposition. But all this is hidden in a comedic plot line with witty quips, satiric innuendos, and “happy endings.”  Having read the play, it is interesting to see the deeper development within each scene in the film adaptation. It’s also strange to feel a sense of relation to Disney’s classic Cinderella, whom also identified and changes her future in love and personality by what she wore only for it to be stripped away at the stroke of midnight. It’s strange to see how powerfully Shakespeare was onto something way ahead of his time – and the shear fact of how one can be identified by the layer they put on, both metaphorically and literally.

If you often find Shakespeare intimidating, you can borrow a variety of accessible versions of Twelfth Night from BCCLS Libraries including the original text with a modern version side by side, a retelling in rhymed couplets for kidsa filmed version starring Helena Bonham Carter, and even a comic Manga adaptation.  Also check out our previous post on how to stop hating Shakespeare!

Written by:
Sherissa Hernandez
Adult Programming Assistant

Super Science Fiction and Fantasy Reads: The Third Quarter of 2018 with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group

17 Oct

The summer of 2018 continued to be filled with a lot of enjoyable books for our Science Fiction and Fantasy Group.  We hope you can join us for future discussions.  On Monday, October 22nd we will be discussing the short stories of HP Lovecraft for our Halloween Read at 6 PM.  At 3 PM and 4:30 PM we will be showing two Classic Spooky Comedies.  Then in November we will be discussing Red Shirts by John Scalzi; stop by the reference desk to get a print or ebook copy.  We always welcome suggestions for what books the group reads!  Email hplwriters @ gmail.com to be added to our mailing list.

Spellsinger
by Alan Dean Foster
Spellsinger
In July we discussed Spellsinger by Alan Dean Foster in honor of the summer reading theme of “Reading Rocks.”  I had enjoyed the book as a teenager and was interested to see how it held up after so many years and what the group thought of it.  You may remember I referenced the series along with others in the funny fantasy genre in my post looking back on my favorite novels over the year.  It was a fun light read for summer focusing on an average guy who becomes a hero when he is accidentally sent to an alternate dimension where he can do magic by playing cover songs from earth. The book ends on a cliffhanger leading in to the second book in the series, but many of the group agreed that it felt like the novel came full circle on an emotional development with the main character expanding his definition on what it means to truly be a person.  The group watched the R rated animated sci-fi cult classic Heavy Metal before the discussion.  Besides being available in print, you can also borrow Spellsinger along with other books in the series, as ebooks from Hoopla.

The Three-Body Problem
by Cixin Liu
translated by Ken Liu
3BodyProblem
We had previously read another book in translation, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne which was originally written in French, but The Three-Body Problem was our first translation of a more modern science fiction novel.  Besides print you can borrow it as a digital audiobook from Hoopla.  The group on the whole found the beginning of the work with its exploration of China’s Cultural Revolution a bit slow, but felt it picked up as the main story of first alien contact was introduced.  Several members of the group planned to read the other two works in the trilogy The Dark Forest and Death’s End.  I thought Liu’s use of VR game technology in the novel was especially interesting in comparison to Ready Player One, which we had discussed previously and you can now see a movie adaptation on Blu-ray or DVD.  Unfortunately a planned movie adaptation of the novel, The Three-Body Problem, was shelved a few years ago so instead we watched the classic Forbidden Planet, which is available on Blu-ray and DVD.  The movie, though from the 50’s, holds up well in both look and plot and its retro vibe only adds to its charm.

Lady of the Forest
by Jennifer Roberson

LadyoftheForest

book cover from eLibraryNJ

We read Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson for our August book.  The book hooked readers with its suspenseful opening.  The group enjoyed that the book had many different characters’ perspectives and how it told the story of not just how Robin evolved into the character of myth and legends but how his merry men also met and joined him. The book especially focuses on Marian who goes from being an intelligent but more conservative, traditional lady of the day to finding her inner warrior.  It is an interesting twist on Robin, who is depicted as having PTSD from fighting in the crusades.  I think my favorite character was Eleanor, the sheriff’s daughter, who despite making several very bad decisions still intrigued me as a depiction of how a more independent oriented women would be treated in that era.  Besides print, Hoboken residents, can borrow the book from eLibraryNJ as an ebook.  Roberson also wrote a sequel Lady of Sherwood.  We watched the movie Robin and Marian which looked at the couple towards the end of their lives rather than the beginning of their adulthood in the book; it provided an interesting look at how their relationship would have evolved.  My heart still belongs to the animated Disney version, but I also enjoyed this more serious interpretation and thought Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn gave stellar performances in the title roles.  You can learn more about the history of the Robin Hood legend from Robin Hood–The Outlaw Hero, Episode 9 of Heroes and Legends, part of The Great Courses series of lectures available for streaming from Kanopy.

I hope you will join us for upcoming discussions.  And if you like mysteries check out the Hoboken Public Library’s New Mystery Book Club!  You can email rosary.vaningen @ hoboken.bccls.org for more info about the Mystery book club!

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Reference

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