What are differences and similarities between Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and the movie She's The Man?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are mostly quite a few differences in plot between Twelfth Night and She's The Man. The biggest difference is that Amanda Bynes's character, Viola, decides to impersonate her brother at his school while he is absent. Bynes's Viola even takes on the same name as her brother in order to carry out the impersonation. In contrast, Shakespeare's Viola, while she may have had her twin brother in mind, is only impersonating a man. She goes by the name Cesario rather than her brother's name Sebastian.

Another significant plot difference is motive behind the impersonation. Bynes's Viola wants to impersonate her brother in order to compete with the boys from her own school who forbade the girls to play soccer with them once their own program was shut down, thereby proving her soccer skills. For Bynes, Viola's motive is purely an ambitious motive. In contrast, Shakespeare's Viola has just landed in a foreign location after surviving a shipwreck and thinks she is the only survivor of her wealthy family. As a single, wealthy noble woman without any male protection, she knows she is in a dangerously vulnerable position. Hence, she decides to disguise herself in order to protect her true identity. At first she has the idea to disguise herself as a servant in the house of Olivia to protect her true identity, but when the sea captain who rescued her warns that her services would be rejected, she decides to disguise herself as a eunuch in order to work for Duke Orsino. We see Shakespeare's Viola explain her motive of self-protection in her lines:

O that I served that lady
And might not be delivered to the world,
Till I had made mine own occasion mellow,
What my estate is! (I.ii.43-46)

Another significant plot difference is that the film She's The Man does away with the madness theme and the persecution of Malvolio who is represented as a tarantula. Also Shakespeare's Viola mostly services Duke Orsino by helping him try to court Olivia. In contrast, while Bynes's Viola also tries to help Duke court Olivia, Duke does a greater service for Bynes's Viola by coaching her in soccer so that she actually has the skills she needs to be able to play with and compete against the men's teams.

laurniko eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Differences between Twelfth Night and She's the Man include the setting, the reason for Viola's deception, and the impersonation of Viola's twin, Sebastian. Similarities include Viola's relationship with Duke Orsino and which couples end up together at the conclusion.

Twelfth Night is set in Illyria, which was located in the Balkans—though Shakespeare didn't set it in real Illyria but rather his own interpretation of it. Most of the action takes place in a kingdom there. She's the Man is set in the United States and most of the action happens at Illyria, a boarding school. 

The time of the setting is also quite different. While Shakespeare doesn't specify when Twelfth Night takes place, it isn't in modern times. She's the Man is a modern story with cars, soccer, and a Junior League carnival.

The reason for Viola pretending to be male is also very different. In the play, she believes her brother is dead and takes on the role of a man as a way of protecting herself. In the movie, she pretends to be a boy because the female soccer team at her school was disbanded. When the male coach refuses her request to join the male team, she transfers to another boarding school—Illyria—and pretends to be a boy so she can prove she's as good a soccer player as a boy.

In Twelfth Night, Viola pretends to be a man who she creates entirely, Cesario. In She's the Man, Viola pretends to be her brother, Sebastian. She has to do so while he travels to Europe with his band so she can take his place at school.

In both the play and the movie, Viola develops a relationship with Duke Orsino and falls for him. He believes that she's male and is helping him develop his romantic relationship with Olivia. Olivia falls for Viola in both, unaware that she's actually a woman.

Both works also conclude in much the same way—though the movie substitutes dating for marriage. Viola and Duke Orsino end up together, as do Sebastian and Olivia.

Twelfth Night was published in the First Folio in 1623. She's the Man was released in 2006.

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Twelfth Night

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