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Twelfth Night and She’s the Man

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Theatre Studies 212

Tylo Fortuin


M. Albertyn

Tylo Fortuin - 20362005

In this essay I will be discussing the differences between Twelfth Night and She’s the man, even though it is an adaptation of the play, written by William Shakespeare. I will be focusing on the difference between characters and the comedy that was added in the film that does not come forth in the play.

She’s the man is a modern film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. There are numerous differences amongst the two.

In the play Sebastian and Viola are twins and Viola washes up on the shore of Illyria. Viola poses as a male, named Cesario, in order to get a job working for Duke Orsino. In the movie however Viola is posing as her twin brother, Sebastian, at a new school called, Illyria. She is doing this so that she can play in the boys soccer team because the girls team was cut at their school and this is a clear difference between the movie and the play. In the play Viola is in mourning because of her brother’s death and she is not sad because of a break up, like in the film. Viola, in the film, knew exactly where her brother was. He was in London and this is also where she saw the gap to get revenge by getting on a soccer team to play against her school to proof that girls are good enough to play soccer and that they can play just as well as boys. This also changes where Viola’s mind set is in the film as to where it would be much different in the play.

Duke Orsino is very self-absorbed in the play and he is desperately in love with Olivia. Duke Orsino the movie more self-aware and more self-conscious, even though he is also in love with Olivia. In the play he is very worried about how he is viewed by others and he is nervous about approaching her rather than just spewing his love out on her, like in the movie.

Despite having all these enemies in Illyria, Antonio helps Sebastian go there to find work because it is the closest island and he does it out of his romantic love for Sebastian. In the movie Paul Antonio is a hairstylist and he meets many gay stereotypes and this is most likely referring to his homosexuality in the play but in the movie he is in charge of helping Viola with becoming her brother, Sebastian.

The one character that certainly plays the same symbolic role in the play and the movie is Toby. In the play he is Violas drunken uncle who falls in love with Maria who is in a lower class than him and this challenges and also questions, who can fall in love with who and what a relationship should look like. In the movie Toby is Duke Orsino’s friend which is completely inaccurate to the play. He does not fall in love with Mariah he falls in love with a girl named, Agnes. Agnes is definitely on a lower social level than Toby. It challenges the whole concept but the movie goes further with setting a challenge for interracial relationships as well.

There are clear differences between these characters in the movie and in the play and it’s not truly and accurate depiction of such great work done by Shakespeare. She’s the man also has a very comic take on things happening in the Twelfth Night.

In She's the Man, Viola is dressed as a girl when she hears Olivia's confession that she has a "huge thing" for Sebastian. Shocked, Viola stares wide-eyed at herself in a bathroom mirror, smiles absently, touches her face lightly, and then comes back to reality with a jerk and a nervous "Oh boy."(Klett, 2008). It is symbolic of contemporary cinema's engagement with Shakespeare that Viola confronts her confused and confusing gender identities in wordless silence instead of in soliloquy(She's the man, 2006).  Although the film is based on Shakespeare, it takes many liberties with it’s source material, and it does not make use of anything resembling a full text. Instead, they use Twelfth Night, and Viola in particular, to explore the challenges faced by contemporary adolescent girls, especially the ways in which they relate to their femininity(Klett, 2008). Viola disguises herself as her twin brother Sebastian to resolve her frustrations at being barred from playing competitive soccer as a girl. Although the film makes Viola a reflection of the contemporary teenage girl, it takes a very different approaches to adapting Shakespeare and to presenting issues of gender and sexuality. She's the Man sticks fairly close to the general structure, characters of the play even as it revolutionizes the language, and updates the setting to an American high school. The film puts an emphasis on comedy, colouring over the darker tones of Shakespeare's play to focus on happy heterosexual union in its final scene(Klett, 2008). The external obstacles that keep the teen heroes and heroines from achieving their goals are often inadequate or oppressive parents or parental figures. In She's the Man, for instance, Viola resists her mother's attempts to make her into a debutante. Because adulthood is so alienating in teen films, they tend to depict adolescent values such as directness, outspokenness, independence, self-idealization or something like the will to success(Pittman, 2017). The ultimate focus of these films tends to be on the achievement of heterosexual coupling in the face of parental or social opposition(Klett, 2008). Fickman's film uses Twelfth Night to articulate a modern girl's struggle with her gender identity in an oppressive world. Although Viola may challenge stereotypes through her impersonation of a boy and her success on the soccer field, the film returns her to a "proper" feminine role at the end and rewards her with the hunky Duke Orsino.

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