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Filtering by Tag: Shakespeare

To Be Made Complete

William Coleman

Lady Macbeth - Gabriel von Max The Latin word condere means to found, to make, or to bury. It also means to strike such that the instrument is plunged in what is struck. Virgil sets the multivalent word to work at once in his Aeneid, tuning it to sing the praise of Roman making. ("tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem" ; "So great a task it was to found the Roman race.")

But when we meet the word again at story's end, there is a shudder, as a circuit we did not know was being fashioned, line by line, is made complete: Aeneus sinks his blade into the side of Turnus, an issuing of violence that in turn gives birth to Rome. Destined rage, destined mercilessness, destined empire: we're made to think again of all that came before, and all that came of that.

My wife, figuring another circuit, describes such linguistic pairs as knots at the ends of the tailor's thread. One allows the stitch to happen, the other's made to stem the seam that's stitched. The kindred knots, sharing a nature, are separated by the union they helped to fashion.

Thus in Denmark, Grendel slaughters thirty men, and the hero, stepping ashore two hundred and fifty lines later, is said to have "the strength of thirty" in his grip.

Thus the troubled prince of Denmark calls his love "nymph"--nymph, the water-bride; nymph, the water-called--and in the span of an act, Ophelia's drawn into the brook.

Thus Macbeth, drenched in guilt, turns to his wife:

It will have blood; they say, blood will have blood: Stones have been known to move and trees to speak; Augurs and understood relations have By magot-pies and choughs and rooks brought forth The secret'st man of blood. What is the night?

And his wife responds,

Almost at odds with morning, which is which.

Shakespeare sets her line at the play's dead center (act III, scene iv): midnight in the drama's time, midnight in the staged running of that time, midnight in the realm of the usurping king's soul. How apt, then, how terrifyingly apt, that Lady Macbeth unconsciously (that is to say, homophonically) reminds him (and herself?) of the force that set the dark in motion ("which is which"). The stitch.

What's more, because the work at hand cannot exist without us, the circuit's made complete within us. The stitch's loop depends on our awareness. We feel a sudden tautness ripple the warp and weft of our material. Cinched more tightly to the act of creation, we feel an intimation of immortality; we feel the final meaning of condere: completion.

Felix Culpa

Jean Hoefling

apple-on-stump-with-flowersNothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.      – Robert Frost

It was the first grown-up poem I burned to memory. I was seventeen, and Mr. Hunt's poetry class was a lifeline in that unhappy season of affected hippie clothes, a tumultuous first romance I still believe probably killed me, and a month of March that gives new meaning to the word bleak.

The passionate Mr. Hunt read poetry aloud to us—all his favorite sonnets by Donne and Shakespeare, and lots of Plath, Hopkins, Dickinson, and many others. O for a muse of fire… Glory to God for dappled things…I died for beauty…That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me… I’d watch our teacher’s mouth form each word and phrase, then place those exquisite nuggets of expression into his students’ hearing as though they were sacraments intended to bless and heal. And somehow, they did. There seems to be a given about most good poetry: it is true. Even if it’s harsh or vulgar, it’s still true. And where there is truth, there is power and mystery and healing. “The truth shall set you free.” Poetry’s aching bluntness gives us something to hang onto as we struggle to grow up over the course of a lifetime.

Maybe that’s why I took Frost’s haunting poem about life’s transience so seriously. I memorized it for life within minutes of my first reading. I lived inside that poem for years while I healed from the sinking Edens of my junior year of high school—the dawns that had too quickly turned to garish midday and the golden things I did not have the maturity to manage before they subsided forever. “Nothing Gold” gave me hope by expressing a sorrowful reality in a gracious and beautiful way.

Many years later, I think of this poem in light of the western theological term, felix culpa: happy fault. In felix culpa is the paradox of Eden’s calamitous fall as a necessary and blessed catharsis for the appearing of the One who, in Christian eschatology, will one day restore lost Eden; who is himself that paradise. Frost’s job as a poet was to point out the heartbreaking fact that in this world, nothing gold can stay. Faith takes it one step further: In the next world, gold will never pass away. 

Glorious Potentiality

Aaron Guest

By Oliver Vass - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21788187 On the first day of 7th grade my history teacher asked us to write down a nickname she should use for us in class. Did she mean we could choose a nickname we wanted to be called by? An Aaron by any other name? I had felt so penned in by name at 12. It had already been egregiously mispronounced (“erin”) and misspelled (I possess a litany of incorrect name tags). Back then I didn’t know of any really admirable Aaron’s either — Aaron Sele, a first round pick by the Boston Red Sox, would not make his debut until I was in 8th grade. These days it’s still burdensome: The double A’s mean I get butt-dialed all the time.

If this comedy sketch had been around 24 years ago… my name and nickname would’ve been coveted by all.

Naming is not an endeavor, whether for my writing or my children or my own self, that I approach lightly. Madeline L’Engle, in Walking on Water, believes Naming to be one of the impulses behind all Art, a way to aid in the “creation of… a wholeness”. Naming is incarnational. It portends what the Caedmon’s Call lyric deems “glorious potentiality”.

I think in this way, too, Naming is an Art. And Art, considering G.K. Chesterton’s humorous and brilliant definition, is limitation: “If you draw a giraffe, you must draw him with a long neck. If, in your bold creative way, you hold yourself free to draw a giraffe with a short neck, you will really find that you are not free to draw a giraffe. You can free things from alien or accidental laws, but not from the laws of their own nature.”

When it comes to naming the characters in a story, whittling away hours searching for the correct name is a foolproof way to not end up writing the story. Ron Carlson tells about the stock names he uses when he starts any story, waiting for the drafts to reveal the name. It works like this for me. Like the focus on a camera lens, the name crystallizes when I can see the potential of the character emerge on the page.

To some extent, my wife and I did this with our three kids. We didn’t tell anyone the names until each child was in our arms. My thought then, as now, is everyone has an idea of what an Isaac or a Lucy or a Vivian should look like based on “accidental laws” surrounding an Isaac, Lucy, or Vivian they have known. Everyone has their own interpretation of “what’s in a name.”

Take a look at the controversy over the actress playing the role of Hermione in the London performance of the new Harry Potter story. This Shakespearean question of “what’s in a name?” still generates robust—and asinine, twittish: ‘but we have a certain picture from the movies!’—discussion. I am ecstatic that Hermione is being extirpated from the cold, dead hands of those who wish to cement the accidental laws of Art onto her. What will make Hermione Hermione in this new chapter of Harry Potter is that she simply “retain that dear perfection [read: potentiality] which [she] is owed.”

I had had a thing for the The Hardy Boys in seventh grade. I wanted to bask in the potentiality of the name Frank. In his “keen-ness” for details, his ability to get out of jams involving criminal syndicates (just flex your muscles and inhale when they tie the ropes around you!), his sense of adventure and justice. And so I was forever Frank to my teacher: my sister had her for class six years later and was asked how Frank was doing.

I have loved, relished, treated as sacramental, the naming of our own kids. And so when they draw homemade wands from inside the pockets they have somehow sewn into old blankets doubling as robes and they are casting spells in English accents while being chased by my father pretending to be Lord Voldemort (yes, I said his name), I notice how gloriously long their necks are.

The Folded Lie

Christina Lee

(Image of Auden from the January, 1957 cover of The Atlantic, by Stanley Meltzof, via Roger Doherty)

The habit-forming pain, Mismanagement and grief: We must suffer them all again.

These words were written by a gay man—a man who had recently met the love of his life, a man who did not feel safe to speak openly about this love, a man under threat of incarceration and violence because of this love. These words were written by a man facing news of tragedy—a horror caused by politicians’ greed and stupidity and inability to live in peace, a horror which he’d been through before, a horror which seemed to be repeating itself in a nightmarish, unstoppable cycle.

These words are W.H. Auden’s. They are from his poem “September 1, 1939,” written on the eve of World War II.

America loves this poem. We turn to it in moments of national mourning. It was ubiquitous after the 9/11 attacks. Politicians quoted it. Newspapers reprinted it. I myself have shared it with students and on social media during each of the recent mass shootings.

When we reach for the comfort of this poem, we don’t usually leave time to discuss Auden’s sexuality. We don’t pause to decode the poem’s references to the struggle of being queer in the 1930s. In fact, in some versions reprinted after September 11th, 2001, all sections that hinted at this were snipped out.

These references are obscure, so they probably just seemed confusing and off-topic. (Remember Auden, as a British citizen, lived under threat of criminal prosecution for sodomy—references to his homosexuality had to be coded. This was more than a stylistic choice.)

Nothing hateful was meant by the shortening of the poem, right? It just seems pointless to bring up Auden’s queer identity, right? Pointless to acknowledge that the first line, “I sit in one of the dives /on Fifty-second Street” is most likely a reference to a gay bar. What good would it do, bringing that up? After 9/11, it probably seemed like an irrelevant detail. In the wake of the Orlando shooting at Pulse nightclub, it seems less so.

You can posit that an author’s sexual orientation is nobody’s business, or claim we shouldn’t bring biography into art. But we live in a society where straight is default, so to say nothing is to imply heterosexuality.

So with a writer like Auden (or Whitman or Dickinson or Shakespeare or Woolf or Cather or Bowie or St. Vincent Millay or Oliver or Cohen or Ocean or Jónsi), to say nothing is to be complicit in a lie of omission.

This lie is convenient, as most lies tend to be. It lets readers absorb all the beauty and comfort and strength of a poem without ever even knowing that they’ve been identifying—on a personal, emotional level—with a queer writer. Many Americans who drew strength from Auden’s poem in 2001 never had the opportunity to grapple with the fact that its author was queer, simply because they didn’t know.

When we read, we are in someone else’s head for a minute. Through this mind-boggling miracle that is literature, we learn to listen to voices other than our own. We develop empathy.

Some might say, oh, let me just enjoy the beauty of this art without worrying about its context. Nope. You don’t get that luxury. Our country has an empathy deficiency. Does that sound dramatic? Consider the conservative churches who wondered “how to respond” to the mass murder at Pulse, or worse, responded with hate. Consider that threats toward the Muslim community in Orlando have already begun.

Queer voices are already included on required reading lists in nearly every high school. These could be a powerful weapon against hate and ignorance, but we can’t activate that power unless we acknowledge the sexuality of the authors we teach. (And of course, we need to drastically increase the diversity of those reading lists, too.)

If you’re familiar with “September 1, 1939,” you’ve probably heard that Auden later disowned his poem. The line he hated most was “we must love one another or die” because, he said, “we die anyway.”

Here’s the stanza in its original form:

All I have is a voice To undo the folded lie, The romantic lie in the brain Of the sensual man-in-the-street And the lie of Authority Whose buildings grope the sky: There is no such thing as the State And no one exists alone; Hunger allows no choice To the citizen or the police; We must love one another or die.

I can see why Auden would write off that last line. After the war, it must have seemed so naïve. And the famous image in the poem’s final stanza—lights dotting a dark horizon—can feel a little pat in the face of so much tragedy.

The poem has value, though. Maybe not so much to comfort, but to challenge. When I read the line “all I have is a voice / to undo the folded lie,” I think of the many “folded lies” we face today: the NRA’s bizarre grip on our legislation, bigotry thinly disguised as patriotism, religion being twisted to justify both hate crimes and hateful responses. And the folded lie of heteronormativity that continues to be told through the censorship and casual omission of queer voices, both in literature and in life.

So many lies, folded up so tightly. It is overwhelming. That’s probably why Auden wrote (and why most of us still like) that comforting-if-slightly-illogical line about love.

We can’t undo all the lies at once. But we can honor Auden’s voice. Re-read “September 1, 1939,”—all of it—and remember it was written in a gay bar; read it in remembrance of the 50 beautiful lives cut horrifically short on a Sunday morning in a gay bar. And when you finish the poem, spend some time reading the stories of the victims. Find yourself in these stories, even if—especially if—they are different from your own. Mourn for each lost voice. Mourn for all of us.

Hopeful Mysteries

Callie Feyen

Line drawing of the Stratford grammar school drawn by Edmund Hort New. “Mrs. Feyen, do you like professional football teams?” This comes from George, one of my 8th grade students. He’s asking me about football because I’m wearing a Notre Dame t-shirt today. I probably shouldn’t be wearing it; it’s not very professional, but every so often I get dreadfully homesick for the Midwest and this morning as I got dressed I decided to pull Notre Dame over my head and feel a little of South Bend on me as I walked through the day.

I wore a cardigan and a scarf with it and figured nobody would notice I was wearing a t-shirt. George notices, and now he’s asking me about the NFL. While I like everything that has to do with football: tailgating, the stadiums, fall, old, grey depressed towns that transform into vibrant, storybook places for 48 hours, I know nothing about the sport, professional or college.

“Let me guess,” George says, shifting his backpack to his other shoulder. “The Chicago Bears.”

I smile. I never hear them referred to as “The Chicago Bears.” Just, “the Bears,” and the “s” is drawn out a bit. George reminds me where I am – in Maryland, in Redskin territory, in a classroom of 21 of the rowdiest, craziest, 8th graders I’ve ever come into contact with. Trying to teach them is like trying to keep the lids on 21 pots of boiling water. On better days, I call them hippogriffs. On the days they bring me to my knees, they are grizzly bears.

I shouldn’t take any of this personally: the eye rolls, the snickers, the talking while I’m talking. Most days, standing in front of them feels like I have my fly unzipped or toilet paper hanging from my butt. That’s how they look at me, if they look at me. Most of the time they are either looking at each other, falling asleep, or so zoned out I think I am teaching the dead. I usually drive home from school crying, trying to figure out where I went wrong.

They are my grizzly bears, though. As ruthless, conniving, and ridiculous as they are, I adore them. They make me laugh, they are dead silent when I read out loud to them, and when I can get them to trust me and themselves, they are poets. We take walks in a patch of woods behind the school and they write in the second person using all five senses. They can write a sonnet about baseball or their little brothers, all in iambic pentameter. Their writing is vulnerable and gritty. They can be lyrical and they can be stark. You’d never see it in class, though. It only comes out on paper, when they are writing with the lights off. Their preference. They are most comfortable in the dark.

“George,” I say as I erase the whiteboard. “I don’t think I can say I like the Bears, but I do root for them.” I turn towards him and say, “they break a lot of peoples’ hearts on Sundays in the fall.”

George laughs. “Yeah.” He leaves the classroom and I am by myself, looking around. Candy wrappers are everywhere. Assignments I took hours grading are balled up and lying next to the garbage can. There’s writing on the whiteboard, something about peaches. I think it’s a dirty, menacing joke aimed at a student in the class, but I’m not certain. I’m also not sure which student this is aimed at, nor am I sure how this got here in the first place. How did I not see a kid writing on the whiteboard?

As much as these students break my heart, I am addicted to the contrast they bring. I believe my faith lives in that contrast.

We are studying Romeo and Juliet right now, and day they meet Sampson and Gregory, they gasp in what I’m certain is delight when they hear Sampson talking about thrusting women against walls. When we get to the part where Gregory and Sampson contemplate the size and beauty of their reproductive organs, I feel like I’m conducting class in a frat house.

“I had NO IDEA how dirty this play is,” one kids says, delightedly.

When Romeo describes his love of Rosaline, “feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health,” we discuss why the opposites contribute to the definition of Romeo’s love. “You can feel it more,” one of them says.

We try to do the same thing to describe the word, “crush:” perfect confusion, sorrowful happiness, paralyzing giddiness. They all smile, and I smile, too. I remember so well those days.

“Romeo kind of likes this mood, doesn’t he?” I suggest.

“Yeah,” they all say, knowingly.

“Now you try,” I tell them, handing them a piece of paper.

Loud secret is used for "mysterious," blurry focus for "art," and my favorite, hopeful mystery for the word "bless."

I tell them I’m going to cry for how good they are. “Read mine! Read mine!” they say, reaching their papers towards me. I take their work, and they put their heads on the table, shy now. I always tell them good job. I always tell them I love what they write. It’s as close as I can get to saying I love them.

When Mercutio and Tybalt die, I have them make webs around their names and we write down all the things they were: inappropriate, angry, possessive, rude.

“Is that all they were?”

No, they say. Mercutio was hilarious and he was a good friend. Tybalt was fiercely protective of Juliet.

I tell them Mercutio and Tybalt were nasty and awful, but that’s not all they were. “If we believe they were made in the image of God, then nothing they do – nothing anything any of us do – can separate us from His love.” I stagger when I say this. I’m always stuttering and tripping over my feet when I talk to my 8th graders.

This class might give me nightmares. They might make me second guess everything I do, but they show me how to live in the contrast. I think it’s where the smiles are bigger, the laughter is heartier, and grace is at its most palpable.

We are cleaning up the classroom during the last five minutes of class. I’m trying to pass back papers, and kids are shooting baskets across the room with them. I get hit several times and realize they’re probably aiming at me. One girl has hip pinned another girl to the wall. Another kid is doing some sort of rendition of “Bring in the Noise, Bring in the Funk.”

George is sitting at his desk, whistling. He has perfect pitch, and I can hear him above all the ruckus. He is whistling the Doxology. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

George reminds me where I am. George reminds me of my blessings. George, and all his classmates, help me believe in the hopeful mystery.

An Unexpected Journey

Callie Feyen

1024px-HMCoSecondEdHobbitsI am reading The Hobbit for the first time. I am 40 now, and I am reading it because I have to teach it to 7th graders.

I believe it’s important I tell you my age and my motive for reading J.R.R. Tolkien because it’s embarrassing. I should’ve discovered the Misty Mountains, I should’ve gasped when Bilbo slips “a golden ring, a precious ring” on his finger, I should’ve considered how to blow smoke rings and having second breakfasts years ago when summers meant riding my bike and chasing fireflies until my mom called, “Callie, come home!”

I was not a reader growing up, and I have so much to catch up on: Tolkien and Eliot, and Shakespeare, and I haven’t even read all of Judy Blume’s books.

Reading is hard for me. I have to read The Hobbit with reading guides and synopses of each chapter. One night my husband came home from work to find me sobbing, my head in my hands, moaning, “I don’t get this. I’ll never understand it. I hate those damn elves!”

That evening, he made his from scratch taquitos and strong margaritas (he only knows how to make them strong) and he found Peter Jackson’s film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey online.

“Oh,” I said when the red paper kite dragon flew into view. “That’s foreshadowing. The paper dragon’s there because it’s the dragon that stole all that gold.” I took a sip of my drink then said, “I think I remember that dragon can’t do anything with the gold. Is that right?” I looked at Jesse for a moment, then back at the TV. “I mean, I think the dragon can’t enjoy what he’s stolen. He just lies in it and makes sure it doesn’t go away.”

I haven’t finished reading the book; I’m about a chapter ahead of my students (I have a friend who tells me all I have to be is a tad smarter than my class), but I like to think I have a lot in common with Bilbo Baggins.

I have a side that’s been lying dormant for years, too. It actually comes from my mom and my dad, the Ayanoglou and the Lewis side. Both are great readers who did their best to surround me with the finest literature. For Pete’s sake, I lived next door to a library. It was no use, though. Reading wasn’t something I did. Reading has always been hard. Oh, I can sound the words out just fine (usually). It’s processing and understanding what I read that’s difficult. I’ve been tested for everything but “poor reading comprehension” was all that showed up.

“I’m not bright,” I told Jesse during the part where Gollum and Bilbo were giving each other riddles (none of which I understood). Jesse told me Gollum used to be a hobbit, but after he found the ring, he became the freaky, scrawny, big-eyed thing we were watching on TV. I started to cry imagining Gollum as a happy hobbit smoking a pipe and wondering about after dinner seed cakes.

“Why are you so hard on yourself?” Jesse asked putting another taquito on my plate and pouring more margarita in my glass.

“It doesn’t bother me to say it. I’m not sad,” I explained as I squeezed lime into my drink. “It takes me a while to process things, but maybe that doesn’t make me any less of a person.”

It was probably the tequila talking, but I’m looking at what I’ve underlined in my copy of The Hobbit now: “The Took side won. He suddenly felt he would go without bed and breakfast to be thought fierce.” And, “You think I am no good. I will show you…Tell me what you want done, and I will try it.” And maybe my favorite, “There is a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself.”

I think what I’m learning from Bilbo is that it’s not so much that you think you’d be good at something if you just had a chance. Rather, it’s trying what you don’t think you can do, and are probably afraid of, and doing it anyway because the door is open and the Lonely Mountain is waiting with a dragon who believes all that glitters must be fiercely protected.

The Discomfort of Empathy

Jill Reid

empathy-john-edward-marinEach fall semester, I anticipate him. I keep open a substantial space in the syllabus for one of his plays. I move through Beowulf and trek through Chaucer until I arrive at that sweet spot – Shakespeare. But however giddy I am about the bard, each year I field the same question that, when pared down to its bare bones, asks – What does dead old Shakespeare have to do with me? What does this centuries old story have to do with my field of biology or law or business?

Like any educator, I welcome the questions. They give me the opportunity to acknowledge the relationship between the words we read and the world we inhabit. Especially, the questions give me the opportunity to talk about empathy, a topic getting a lot of press in education circles and one that has recently and brilliantly been addressed by Leslie Jamison in her book, The Empathy Exams.

 In my classroom, I often find that students struggle to connect the experience of discomfort to the experience of empathy. When my sophomore survey class finished Othello, some students kicked against the merit of a text they found so disturbing, so violently tragic. Despite their reluctance, the presence of their discomfort was the clearest sign that they had read the text with empathizing sensitivity. True empathy is a painstaking, uncomfortable process that resists the cheap comfort of stereotype, prejudice, and self-righteousness.

Writer James Baldwin once said, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”

Baldwin’s words suggest that we read not only for our own sake but also for the sake of others. We read not to escape from our own pain but to connect that pain to something larger than itself. And that connection occurs when a thoughtful reading snags our senses on the heartbreak or even foolishness of someone else, and we stop in our tracks and walk alongside that struggling character. Empathy does not require the reader’s agreement with a character’s choices, but it does require his understanding of that character’s plight. There is something Christ-like in becoming a reader vulnerable to the pain and hardship of a story’s characters, in extending grace “to the least of these.” Yes, characters in stories are fictional, but perhaps, if a reader can practice the act of empathy in the world of fiction, she can learn to render it even more graciously in the world of the hospital and the law firm and the boardroom.

(Painting by John Edward Marin)

Gender Bending in Shakespeare’s“Twelfe Night, or What You Will”

John Hodges

Richard III Belasco Theatre Joseph Timms Mark Rylance

Broadway’s all-male production of Shakespeare’s comedy of gender confusion closes in February.  One critic says, the “. . . performance brings to funny and delicious life the play’s message of the power of love and desire to transcend the limitations of gender.”  Wait, what?  Is that what Shakespeare’s point was? 

It is simply the Bard’s genius to create a love triangle that serves as a love circle.  Viola loves the Duke, the Duke, Olivia, but Olivia can close the circle and love Viola because Viola appears in the guise of a man, Cessario.  This makes for some wonderful comedy onstage and off, that is, among the critics.

It is popular now in universities to think in “politically correct” terms about classics.  A feminist perspective (that women have no significant power unless it is through a man) finds traction in this play as Viola is powerless and insignificant until she takes up the livery of a man.  Olivia lends support as an empowered woman, head of her household, who scorns the Duke’s proposals and resists the attempts by Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Malvolio to tame her to their wishes.  With her newfound freedom of choice, however, she pursues Cessario, not knowing that Cessario is really the girl Viola, and this aspect of the plot lends credence to a popular homosexual perspective, that men and women have latent erotic tendencies toward their own genders.  To further this notion, there are  the sparks of attraction the Duke seems to feel toward Cessario (again not knowing she is a girl), and the love of Antonio proclaims for Sebastian (Viola’s twin brother) without any mistaken identity.

However, while Viola may gain some power and position when she is taken for a man, her decision to dress and act like a man was for security not power. She thought it was dangerous for a woman to go around in an unknown territory alone, a problem that is timeless.  While she IS a man, pining for the Duke and avoiding Olivia’s advances, she wishes she were NOT a man, and we know that she won’t be satisfied until she can again safely appear in public as a woman.

Sad is an “empowerment” that grants security but makes love impossible.  The homosexual argument falls apart by simply recalling the biblical distinctions between erotic love and brotherly love.  Olivia’s attraction to Viola is humorous only when it is taken as misguided eros, and the Duke’s attraction to Cessario is likewise funny when it is seen as misguided philia.  If either had known what both Viola and the audience know, these pursuits would end.  Additionally, the love of Antonio for Sebastian is proper philia (as is that of Jonathan and David in the bible) and, if mistaken for eros, spoils the happy ending we want for Olivia with Sebastian.

These feminist and homosexual interpretations are not only invalid (in that they fail to account for the play as a play), but they turn out to oppose the clarity of the biblical categories of love and gender which are the very things that make the play funny.  The comedy in Twelfe Night is lost on those who refuse to take such categories seriously.  Just another example of how political correctness has no sense of humor, and, if taken seriously, tends to rob the rest of us of ours.