Twelfth Night


Comedic Conflict and Love in Trevor Nunn's ?Twelfth Night?
Trevor Nunn's direction of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night takes away some of the confusion present in the reading of the text, which begins with the complicated love interests of the main characters. Having been the artistic director for the world famous Royal Shakespeare Company for eighteen years, Nunn is vastly familiar with adaptations of Shakespeare's plays. Part of the comedy of this film develops from the first three acts of the play, which allow for a complex circle of interaction to develop within the film. Nunn's use of the prologue at the beginning of the film presents crucial information in an easy to understand, witty way. The film's prologue makes clear much of the play's primary confusion, and establishes the foundation on which the rest of the film may balance upon.
Nunn's adaptation of Twelfth Night begins with the founding relationship in the play, the designs that Orsino expresses for Olivia. It is clear that this first interaction is the basis for others that occur, and it is also clear that both Shakespeare and Nunn utilize this interaction to create the comedic effects that happen because of the subsequent love interests. Orsino is not just an average courtly love, he is the Duke, and has considerable stature and respectability in his community. It is expected that his love for the Countess Olivia will be reciprocated, even in the midst of her grieving the loss of her brother. However, Duke Orsino's attempts at contact are met with disdain, but Olivia's lack of interest does not dissuade Orsino from continuing his pursuit.
Duke Orsino is not a skilled romantic. His belief that he can compel Olivia into marriage through the expression of his feelings in messages demonstrates his lack of real passion in the situation and shows that he is of great stature, perhaps to belittle himself with courting. He is not Romeo hiding in the bushes for his Juliet, and this is one of the elements of separation that cause the comedic conflict to occur. If Orsino had taken it upon himself to persuade Olivia personally, instead of sending messengers, the outcome of the film would have been significantly altered.
Both Shakespeare and Nunn support the importance of Malvolio's role through the love that he has for himself, as well as his love for Olivia. While Malvolio's love for Olivia creates a sub plot, including the actions manipulated by Maria's deception, this only builds on the comedic effect that is created by the other loves that develop. The comedic conflict is further developed in Malvolio's ?Puritanesque? wardrobe of his suit and shoes. This comedy seen in Malvolio's wardrobe is extended to the end of the film when Malvolio appears wearing bright yellow tights and cross belts.
Malvolio's character is significant because he at first attempts to bring an air of respectability and chastity to the whole film, though his essential flaws and his inability to recognize the reality of people's feelings, including Olivia's, removes him from the position of moral overseer to a simple player in the game of love. Malvolio's error is related to his self-perceptions and his consideration of his own self-importance, rather than his caring and compassion for his mistress Olivia.
The other character of significance is Viola, and she is important in the development of the comedic conflict that occurs. She is a noblewoman who disguises herself as a boy, and becomes a servant of Orsino. Orsino uses Viola as a messenger to persuade the steadfast Olivia to hear his pleas of love. The problem with this scenario is that in the process of winning a position with Orsino, Viola falls in love with him, thus her voice as a messenger for Orsino is complicated by her own feelings. The comedic conflict of love occurs primarily within this love triangle of Olivia, Orsino and Viola. Olivia falls in love with a girl pretending to be a boy, as Orsino subsequently falls for a ?boy?, who, fortunately for him, is in actuality a girl.
Instead of persuading Olivia on Orsino's behalf, Viola, who is called Cesario as a boy, attacks the love of Olivia, complicating the film. Viola does not immediately recognize the affections of Olivia, but when she does she realizes that Olivia loves someone