by Chris Davis
"I would give all my fame for a pot of ale” -Henry V: Act 1, Scene 3
In other booze and Bard related news Tennessee Shakespeare Company opens Twelfth Night this weekend. I can't say this is my favorite comedy in the canon, but with its themes of love and death, and its constant pitting of lechery and vice against prudery and Puritanism, this playful, gender bending, highly musical farce is very close to the top of my list.
Twelfth Night has everything you could want from an evening of theater. It begins with a shipwreck, and twins— a boy and girl, but nearly identical— separated in Illyria, a place of good fooling and misrule, where Duke Orsino has fallen in love with the very idea of being in love. The plot features a dashing sailors, sassy servants and lots of mistaken identity,
Twelfth Night also introduces us to Olivia, a beautiful, high-born lady who's mourning the death of a brother, and the drunken and the debauched members of her household who conspire to play a terrible prank on Shakespeare's most famous tightass, Malvolio,
The play is named for the twelfth day of Christmas, when misrule is celebrated with feasting and strong drink just before the celebration of Epiphany. The revelries were once presided over by a "Lord of Misrule," who was typically a common-born person chosen to preside over a wild party. Although Shakespeare's comedy never mirrors this tradition directly, it completely embodies the spirit of madness and misrule.