30
Dec
07

Twelfth Night, Ninth Post: Antonio’s Not My Boyfriend

Dear Friends,

It’s Sunday– perhaps a day off to many of you, but not for us.  Monday’s usually our day off.  Why?  Because most theaters are dark on Monday.  Why?  Because who goes to a show on Mondays?

 I’m only called for two hours today — table work from 1-2 and 5-6 — giving me time in-between to update the blog… and take advantage of the 75% off post-holiday sale at the Target down the street.  Starving artists are always looking for a good sale.

We tabled my second scene with Antonio today: Act III, Scene 3.  As with the table work for the first scene, we discerned the meaning of the text, discussed the context of the scene, and took a full hour doing it.  The relationship between Sebastian and Antonio is a puzzling one, plenty open to interpretation.  For those of you unfamiliar with the play:

Before the play starts, twins Viola and Sebastian are in a shipwreck and separated, each believing the other to be dead.  But they both survive: Viola washes up on the shore of Illyria, whereas the sea captain (and ill-reputed pirate) Antonio rescues Sebastian.  They hang out for three months, and then Antonio (conveniently) takes Sebastian to Illyria, at Sebastian’s request.  That’s where the play begins.

In my first scene with Antonio, it’s evident that he thinks I’m pretty cool.  I want to seek my fortunes in Illyria alone, and he doesn’t want me to leave.  I insist upon it, so he asks to go with me, as my servant.  I decline, and then explain my situation: that I believe my sister to be dead and I’m really broken up about it and want some alone time.  Then I’m going to find the Duke of Illyria, Orsino, because my late father knew him.  Also, I admit to Antonio that my real name’s Sebastian.  Apparently, I’ve been telling him it’s Rodorigo for the past three months.  After coughing up all of this new information, I bid Antonio a fond farewell, and take off.  When I’m out of sight, Antonio decides (out loud, so you can hear him) that although they don’t like him much in Illyria (ill-reputed pirate that he is) he likes me so much he’s going to risk his neck and follow me anyway.

In our second scene, we find that he’s caught up to me, and that I’m glad to see him.  He once again professes an admiration for me, and also explains that he’s worried for my safety, being a stranger in these parts.  I thank him (with words, not money, because I’m totally broke: apparently the suitcase with the cash in it washed up with Viola, not me) and then suggest that we check out the town: “…let us satisfy our eyes with the memorials and the things of fame that do reknown this city.”  Antonio, however, would rather lay low: he’s a wanted man in Illyria.  As it turns out, Duke Orsino’s not a fan of ill-reputed pirates.  So they agree to part ways for a bit: I’m going to go sightseeing and I’ll meet Antonio at his favorite pub, the Elephant.  Antonio gives me some money, explaining, “Haply your eye shall light upon some toy you have desire to purchase, and your store, I think, is not for idle markets, sir.”  (In other words, I’m broke.) I take the money, thank him, and off we go.

So once we clarify all this plot-based information, there are plenty of questions to be asked, including:

 1.  What’s the nature of the relationship between Antonio and Sebastian?  

2. Why does Antontio like Sebastian so much that he’ll risk his life to follow him around?

3. Why does Sebastian lie to Antonio about his name for three whole months?

4.  Is the real reason Sebastian doesn’t want Antonio to travel with him that he knows about Antonio’s bad reputation, and doesn’t want to be associated with a criminal?

5.  Why do Antonio and Sebastian speak informally (in prose) to each other in their first scene, and then formally (in verse) to each other in the second scene?

6.  Just how ill-reputed is Antonio the Pirate?  What did he do in Illyria that made him a wanted man?

7.  What did Sebastian’s father (Sebastian Sr.) do for a living?

8.  Where were Sebastian and Viola going before their ship sank?

And on and on.  Of course, there are no “right” answers to questions like these, but we came up with some anyway.  Some I’ll let you discover for yourselves (assuming you’re coming to the play.  You’re coming to the play, right?) and others I’ll discuss (probably at length, considering my track record so far) in future posts.  For now, though, my word count is about to hit 800, so I’ll sign off with this final thought:

I’m a minor character.  There are eighteen scenes in this play, and I’m only in five, for crying out loud.  In the context of the whole show, I’m arguably in the play because it’s a comedy and mistaking one twin for the other one is funny.  And yet – and this is the beauty of Shakespeare – Sebastian (and Antonio) are totally complete characters: complicated and human, with loads of questions to be asked about them.  What’s exciting to me is that this creative team is taking the time to ask them.  Considering how much energy and thought Paula is giving to our little sub-plot, you can imagine how rich and detailed the whole story’s going to be.  A finely-woven tapestry indeed.

I’ll keep you posted,

kr

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