I’m bringing “overmorrow” back…


on the day after tomorrow
  • “overmorrow, adv. and adj.”
    Oxford English Dictionary Online.
    Oxford University Press, December 2014.
    Web. 30 January 2015.

Yeah, I know it’s a sixteenth-century word… but it’s time to bring it back, babies!

Don’t deflate me, bro: Super Bowl is overmorrow!

Twelfth Night: the Alternate Title, or “What You Will”

Yesterday, I talked a little (OK, technically a little more than “a little”) about the title of Twelfth Night and its significance. But this play is different than most other Shakespeare plays: it has an alternate title. (Yes, I know many other plays have what could be called alternate/subtitles, like The Chronicle History of Henry the Fifth with his battle fought at Agincourt in France, together with Ancient Pistol, but really, no one uses the subtitle in these cases.)

But here, we have: Twelfth Night, or What You Will.

Today, let’s take a look at that alternate title.

“What” is pretty straightforward.

“You,” however, does add a level of complexity. Does it mean the generic second person plural, which we can probably take to refer to the audience, or does it mean the speaker’s specific addressee (which might be a character in the play, maybe even the play itself [if the speaker is ol’ Willy Shakes himself])?

And now, this is probably a good time to dive into the Oxford English Dictionary, to see just what that word “will” means.  There are three major noun definitions of “will,” with over ten official sub-meanings of the word, plus a handful of adverbial/adjectival meanings. But here, the word is used a verb. Again, three major family of definitions, with nearly 20 sub-meanings used during Shakespeare’s day, with the most likely suspects being:

Desire, wish for, have a mind to … sometimes implying also ‘intend’
  • “will, v.1; I.1.a (also 2.1.a)”
    OED Online.
    Oxford University Press,
    December 2014.
    Web. 27 January 2015.
Determine, decree, ordain
  • “will, v.1; I.3.a”
Expressing natural disposition to do something
  • “will, v.1; I.8”

For either “you,” those first two make a great deal of sense: what you/we desire or decree. This play may just be about what we want it to be or make it to be (for a lit major, this is pretty meta).

That third meaning, though, subverts the first two: what you/we expect is not necessarily what we want or demand. If we go that route, do we get what we expect from a play called Twelfth Night? On the surface, maybe not; but as we saw yesterday, maybe.

Now, there is another meaning (you knew there would be!):

To go astray, lose one’s way; to stray
  • “will, v.3”

That can subvert the usual suspects even more… especially if the hypothetical speaker is the Lord of Misrule.


The phrase “what you will” is used only once in the play itself, by Olivia to Malvolio, in regards to the newly arrived messenger from Orsino, Cesario:

Go you, Malvolio. If it be a suit from the Count, I am sick, or not at home; what you will, to dismiss it.
  • I.v.103-5

I find it infinitely interesting that Olivia uses the phrase when talking to Malvolio (and here, I believe, using the “usual suspect” meanings of desire/decree), at once empowering him to act on her behalf, but also to do it as he desires to do it. And given that the order specifically refers to her only realistic suitor in the play, Orsino (and she even uses the word “suit”), is it any wonder that Malvolio thinks that Olivia has feelings beyond employment for him?

What Malvolio desires, indeed…

Twelfth Night: the Title

Titles are seemingly simple, especially in the histories; by and large, the main character is the title character. As we discussed last play with Julius Caesar, that’s not always the case, but it’s a good starting point. The comedies, however, can be a mixed bag: The Two Gentlemen of Verona, easy; Much Ado About Nothing, a little trickier. On first blush, Twelfth Night would seem to fall into the former, not the latter.

Continue reading “Twelfth Night: the Title”

The Bill / Shakespeare Project presents: This Week in Shakespeare news, for the week ending Monday, January 26th, 2015


This week’s Shakespeare news review includes American Shakespeare Center announcing 2015/16 artistic year, the collapse of Brian Blessed onstage during a performance of King Lear, “Will Shakespeare: Secret Jesuit?”, and Dunsinane. PLUS our usual recap of this week’s daily highlights in Shakespearean history.

Continue reading “The Bill / Shakespeare Project presents: This Week in Shakespeare news, for the week ending Monday, January 26th, 2015”

Sheldrake on Shakespeare: Twelfth Night

Came across this great little podcast, the most recent episode of which ties in nicely to our play under discussion:

Sheldrake on Shakespeare: Twelfth Night


Twelfth Night: Incivility, Disorder and Misrule

Yesterday, I talked a little about how Sir Toby was the character with the most scenes, speeches and lines, in Twelfth Night.

But who is Sir Toby? How is he seen within the world of the play?

Continue reading “Twelfth Night: Incivility, Disorder and Misrule”

Twelfth Night: Classless? Not so much …

Yesterday, I talked a little about gender in Twelfth Night. Well, not so much about gender as women. How there are so few in the play, and the world they’re in is less than hospitable toward them. But also how they end up on top in the world of the play.

I also mentioned that while Viola is a major role in the structure of the play–and by that I mean in the number of scenes in which she appears, as well as the number of speeches and lines the character has–she doesn’t have the largest role in the play. Now if I asked you, who that might be, maybe you answer Orsino, as he’s the purported male romantic lead in the plot. But you’d be way off. Malvolio, the man around whom the major subplot revolves? Nope, but you are getting warmer. Feste? Warmer still, but still no cigar.

Continue reading “Twelfth Night: Classless? Not so much …”

Twelfth Night: Hard Out Here in Illyiria for a Woman

Twelfth Night has only three female roles. We all know that in Shakespeare’s day the women’s roles were played by boy actors (often apprentices), so of course there would be fewer female roles–and in most plays, particularly the histories and tragedies, less prominent ones.

In the comedies (especially the later ones, of which Twelfth Night is the last, the valedictory), the females take greater importance. While As You Like It has Rosalind as its central character with the most lines, its remaining female characters drop precipitously in both speeches and lines. Twelfth Night, on the other hand, has an interesting breakdown of parts. While Viola has the second most number of speeches (just over 30 speeches fewer than the number one character–more on him tomorrow), she has only 8 fewer lines, at 335. Olivia is a close third with about 20 fewer lines than Viola in just 3 fewer speeches. Maria’s in the top 8 characters in both speeches and lines, with nearly 150 lines.

Continue reading “Twelfth Night: Hard Out Here in Illyiria for a Woman”

Twelfth Night: Siblings and More

Yesterday, I talked a little about the nuclear family in Twelfth Night, and how there were none that were intact.

It got me thinking.

Continue reading “Twelfth Night: Siblings and More”