Double Dating in Twelfth Night

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Laurie Osborne, Oakland University/Colby College

Simultaneity and coincidence are the essential features which connect Viola and Sebastian in Twelfth Night. Twins, after all, are born at the same time and coincide in one womb. Indeed, Sebastian identifies himself as Viola's twin, rather than merely her brother: "He [Sebastian of Messaline] left behind him myself and a sister, both born in an hour: if the heavens had been pleased, would we had so ended!"1 Though Viola never reveals that her brother is her twin until she is mistaken for him, Sebastian begins his existence in the play as a twin and, just as importantly, as a displaced twin. His lament for lost simultaneity is followed in the next scene by Viola's response to her own emotional quandary: "O time, thou must untangle this, not I, / It is too hard a knot for me t'untie" (2.2.39-40). For both twins, time is the deciding factor: Sebastian regrets the failure of simultaneity in his experience while Viola commits herself to time, both when she adopts her male disguise and when she discovers the situation which that disguise has provoked.2 By rescuing Sebastian, Antonio has, from Sebastian's perspective, disrupted the simultaneity of the twins' experience, which arose from their birth at the same time and was reflected in their crucial similarity of feature. What was once a twinned existence in brother and sister becomes a string of coincidences in Illyria. Whereas before they experienced life at the same time (and would have died at the same time), when the play begins their lives are only coincidentally the same. Both are rescued and befriended by a ship's captain; both set down in Illyria; both decide to serve Duke Orsino; and both are caught in the interplay between Olivia's household and the Duke's. The events which occur to them are similar but no longer identical.

In consequence, a minor but fascinating textual problem develops in Twelfth Night. As Dennis Huston succinctly puts it, "Sebastian and Viola collide spatially when they are temporally almost three months apart."3 The doubled time experienced by the twins arises from two unnecessarily specific temporal references, one which precedes the sequence of scenes which causes the problem and one which follows those scenes. Before Viola leaves the Duke to woo Olivia on his behalf, Valentine, noting how fond the Duke has become of his new page, draws her attention to the fact that "he [the Duke] hath known you but three days" (1.4.2-3). In the middle of the conversation between Viola and Olivia which immediately follows, after she parts company with Olivia in act 1, scene 5 and before she receives from Malvolio the ring Olivia has sent after her in act 2, scene 2, Sebastian lands in Illyria with Antonio. His first appearance in act 2, scene 1 would cause no controversy except that in act 5 Antonio insists that Sebastian has just arrived that day and has been with Antonio "for three months before" (5.1.92). During the three days in which Orsino has come to trust Cesario, Sebastian has passed three months with Antonio. Sebastian's lament for lost simultaneity is made literal in the context of the major differences between the twins' experiences: Viola becomes enamored of Orsino in three days, and Sebastian becomes the beloved of Antonio in three months.

This temporal disjunction provokes interesting responses from both critics and producers of the play. The standard critical explanation is that the incongruity is not noticeable to a spectator watching the action. As John Dover Wilson puts it, "It is only evident to the careful reader, the spectator would notice nothing wrong."4 When Twelfth Night becomes a text to be read rather than a performance which has a promptbook, the discrepancy becomes noticeable; the reader facing the text recognizes the references to time. Perhaps because Twelfth Night is so thoroughly a text as well as a play by the early 1700s, a number of productions, as presented in both promptbooks and performance editions, appear to resolve the problem anyway. They either omit all or part of Viola's conversation with Valentine in act 1, scene 4 or, more drastically, move the first scene between Sebastian and Antonio so that it does not intrude between Olivia sending the ring and Viola receiving it. Both resolutions of the double date within Twelfth Night are quite revealing, but the ease with which Valentine's reference to three days can be dropped shows how arbitrary the reference is from the start.

Twelfth Night shows an attention to time which rivals that in As You Like It, ranging from the sea captain's assertion that he was "bred and born / Not three hours' travel from this very place" (1.2.22-23) to the priest who has married Olivia and Sebastian "since when, my watch hath told me, toward my grave /I have travell'd but two hours" (5.1.160-61). Most often, however, periods of time define the relationships in this play, as if emotional distance or proximity were a temporal consideration. Orsino responds to Olivia's plan to mourn for seven years by imagining how great her love for him will be if she will "pay this debt of love but to a brother" (1.1.34). When Valentine marvels at the threeday bond between Orsino and Cesario, he seems to suggest an instant attraction. Even Malvolio articulates his imagined relationship with Olivia in a specific time frame and plans his life, "Having been three months married to her" (2.5.44). These measures of affection have all the consistency of Cecily and Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest when each stakes her claim as Ernest's fiancée by asserting, respectively, the most recent proposal or the first.5 In the same way, strength of affection in Twelfth Night can be measured in one scene by seven year's mourning and in another by three day's acquaintance.

Yet the force of time as a measure of emotional ties most vividly appears in Sebastian's assertions of his feeling for his sister and in Antonio's response to the apparent betrayal of Sebastian. Sebastian's claim of being born within an hour of Viola first introduces simultaneity as a principle of closeness. Their separation in the course of the play, first introduced by Viola and then intensified in Sebastian's claim of twinning, signals a failure of congruent experience. This loss of simultaneity is set against the way relationships in Illyria are figured in terms of varying, and even sometimes contradictory, time frames.

Antonio brings together these two models in response to the twins he perceives as one. He represents "Sebastian's" inexplicable coldness to him by describing how Sebastian "grew a twenty years' removed thing / While one would wink; denied me mine own purse, / Which I had recommended to his use / Not half an hour before" (5.1.87-90). He offers this description in almost the same breath in which he affirms that he and Sebastian have spent the last three months together; the proof of the intensity of their former closeness is that he has acted as Sebastian's twin: "No int'rim, not a minute's vacancy, / Both day and night did we keep company" (5.1.93-94). The measure of Sebastian's betrayal is the disjointedness of a half hour transfigured into twenty years' remove. Antonio's claim of his own former simultaneity with Sebastian establishes the twins' newly disparate existences; their relationship and their identities, both temporally defined, have been temporarily suspended. Cesario can only recover her identity as Viola, and Sebastian, first disguised as Roderigo and then taken as Cesario, can only publicly resume his identity as Sebastian when Viola and he once again occupy the same place at the same time.

When Antonio first invokes the model of simultaneity, his claim is dismissed as lunacy. Even so, Orsino's response to him extends the three days of Valentine's remark to three months: "fellow, thy words are madness. / Three months this youth hath tended upon me" (5.1.96-97). Thus begins the process in the final scene whereby the coincidences in Twelfth Night begin to produce simultaneity. The odd congruence of Orsino's and Antonio's three-month connection with Cesario, the similar claims on her loyalty from Olivia and Orsino, and the identical grievances of Sir Toby and Sir Andrew are concurrent demands on Viola which build to the ultimate coincidence: "One face, one voice, one habit, and two persons!" (5.1.214). This final coincidence, which cannot be explained away as Antonio's madness or Viola's duplicity, leads the twins to their dance of mutual recognition. They survey what proofs, what coincidences, link them. Each had a father named Sebastian; the father of each had a mole upon his brow. The final and deciding coincidence is, suitably, temporal—both recall the father who "died that day when Viola from her birth / Had number'd thirteen years" (5.1.242-43).

The most unusual aspect of this proof is frequently overshadowed by Sebastian's inexplicable failure to identify himself as Viola's twin: he does not acknowledge that his father also died on his thirteenth birthday but says, "He finished indeed his mortal act / That day that made my sister thirteen years" (5.1.245-46). His answer apparently violates the parallelism of their mutual catechism ("My father had a mole upon his brow." / "And so had mine" [5.1.240-41]), but actually follows Viola's impulse to identify herself. After all, Sebastian has external verification when he recognizes Antonio and Antonio names him; Viola's identity is the issue, as Sebastian's questions indicate: "what kin are you to me? / What countryman? What name? What parentage?" (5.1.228-29). Her self-identification depends on the internal evidence of memory. The proof she offers is remarkable indeed—the date of her thirteenth birthday is the date of her father's death. Olivia reinforces this return to simultaneity and restored relationships when she offers to be Orsino's sister and asserts that "one day shall crown th'alliance on't" (5.1.317); the twins will marry simultaneously, and Orsino and Olivia will become brother and sister in amity at the same time. The "whirligig of time" (5.1.375) may bring its revenges to Malvolio, but "golden time convents" (5.1.381) to sort out most of the other relationships in Illyria—once the twins are restored to the same time.

Similar concerns for simultaneity and identity, time and connection, are the very principles at work in the determinations of two very different dates for the play in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In the late 1700s when Edmond Malone first argued that a chronology of Shakespeare's plays would be useful, texts like Twelfth Night which appear only in the Folio posed special problems. In the absence of quartos or other early references, scholars relied on internal evidence to ascertain a play's date. Horace Howard Furness points out in the Variorum edition that a scholar named Thomas Tyrwhitt discovered an apparent topical reference to undertakers; as a result, the play was dated at 1614 when there was considerable parliamentary furor about undertaking, "although this date involved the undesirable conclusion that Twelfth Night was the last play that Shakespeare had written."6 Published references to the 1614 origin of Twelfth Night actually begin with Malone's "An Attempt to Ascertain the Order in Which the Plays Attributed to Shakespeare Were Written," which is included as part of the introductory material in the George Steevens edition of Shakespeare's works in 1778.7 In discussing the chronology he offers, Malone affirms the 1614 date by challenging readers to discover "among the plays produced before 1600, compositions of equal merit with Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, The Tempest, and Twelfth Night which we have reason to believe were all written in the latter period" (p. 271). For the next fifty years, most experts considered Twelfth Night to be one of the later, if not the last, of Shakespeare's works.

References to the 1614 date of Twelfth Night's composition occur in a variety of places besides Malone's scholarly essay. Perhaps the most pervasive case is The Life of WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE: Collected and Arranged from Numerous Rare and Authentic Documents. Containing EVERY FACT OF IMPORTANCE from the Birth of This Eminent Poet to the Close of His Brilliant Career, written by Joseph Graves in the 1820s. Though Graves acknowledges that all efforts to establish which of Shakespeare's plays was written first have failed, he feels confident enough about some of the sequence to assert that: "we may not hesitate . . . to station 'Pericles, the three parts of Henry VI., Love's Labour lost; The Comedy of Errors; The Taming of the Shrew; King John; and Richard II.;' among his earliest productions, we may with equal confidence, arrange 'Macbeth; Lear; Othello; Twelfth Night; and the Tempest;' with his latest, assigning them to that season of life, when his mind exulted in the conscious plenitude of power."8 The cover of this Life of Shakespeare announces that it is "adapted and printed, for the purpose of binding up with any edition of Shakespeare's Plays." Some editions, particularly Cumberland's British Theatre (1830), did indeed bind up Graves's version of Shakespeare's life with the plays. Moreover, others who were producing biographies of Shakespeare echoed Graves, like Charles Symmons, who in 1837 also assumed that Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night "when his mind exulted in the conscious plenitude of power."9

Even The Dramatic Souvenir: Being Literary and Graphical Illustrations of SHAKESPEARE and Other Celebrated English Dramatists, published in 1833, devotes fully half of its "literary illustration" of the play to discussing its composition: "Malone considered Twelfth-Night was written at leisure, in 1614, when the author had retired from the Theatre, the very last of his plays, and about three years before his death."10 These ideas about the date of the play were also accepted by Shakespeare enthusiasts, as John William Cole's intensely annotated edition of Shakespeariana indicates. His copious notes on the available editions and documents associated with Shakespeare testify to his interest in the plays and their author, while he lists in his own hand Twelfth Night's date of composition as 1614.11

However, in 1831 John P. Collier completely revised the date of Twelfth Night's composition by publishing his discovery of John Manningham's 1601-2 diary entry, which alludes explicitly to a production of the comedy: "Feb 2, 1601 [-2] At our feast we had a play called Twelve Night or what you will, much like the comedy of errors, or Menechmi in Plautus, but most like & neere to that in Italian called Inganni. A good practise in it to make the steward believe his lady widdowe was in love with him by counterfayting a letter."12 This reference seems indeed, as Collier says, "a striking, and at the same time a rarely occurring, and convincing proof (p. 327). This determination also completely revises the date promoted by Malone and others.

This nominally "absolute" determination of the comedy's date dislocates the text; as a result, later editions had to explain the change. Burton's Theatre Edition, published in 1852, quotes the Oxberry introduction but carefully rectifies the date by offering Collier's discovery, evidently common knowledge by that time (p. V). Other editors, like those of Chambers's Household Shakespeare (1840), felt obligated to justify the earlier error: "The dramatic art evinced in Twelfth Night, and its general excellence, led to a belief that it was one of the poet's latest productions" (p. I).13 Far from rendering the comedy more firmly established, the diary entry actually exposes the ways in which even identical texts can vary because of "extratextual" considerations such as their date of composition.

The Tyrwhitt Twelfth Night (1614) differs from the post-Manningham Twelfth Night (1602) established by Collier because Tyrwhitt depended on the way the playwright's imagination supposedly transformed and reflected the events of his day within the play. Collier, on the other hand, derived his date for the play from the physical evidence of the play's production. Both versions of Twelfth Night's date depend on the crucial mutuality which the play itself considers—coincidence and simultaneity. For Tyrwhitt, and Malone as well, the mention of undertakers in act 3, scene 4 and the furor over "undertaking" in Parliament in 1614 were too great a coincidence for the reference not to be deliberate: "Mr. Tyrwhitt, with great probability, conjectures, that Twelfth Night was written in 1614: grounding his opinion on an allusion, which it seems to contain, to those parliamentary undertakers, of whom frequent mention is made in the Journals of the House of Commons for that year" (Malone, p. 344). Toby's jesting about undertaking reflected Shakespeare's creative rendering of a topical issue particularly hot in 1614—the two must have occurred simultaneously.

When Collier discovered the Manningham diary, Toby's comment was revealed as an irrelevant coincidence rather than one which denotes simultaneity. The many features which define the comedy Manningham saw—the title Twelve Night, Or what you will, the plot's similarity to The Comedy of Errors, the trick on a steward involving a letter—coincide in the diary entry dated 1601. Although there is a play by John Marston called What You Will, all the circumstances in Manningham's diary combined constitute an even greater coincidence than a single reference to undertakers. Thus the occurrence of Manningham writing in his diary and Shakespeare's company producing Twelfth Night must be mutually determinant—the date attached to one can also be attached to the other.

Like the twins, two texts of Twelfth Night, one dated 1614 and another dated 1601, look the same but participate in different relationships. These doubled texts enact the situation imagined in Jorge Luis Borges's short story "Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote" The narrator claims that Menard's "work, possibly the most significant of our time, consists of the ninth and thirty-eighth chapters of Part One of Don Quixote and a fragment of the twenty-second chapter."14 Menard does not copy the novel; he does not produce a contemporary version or a transcription; he does not write it by reenacting Cervantes's life. He takes up a different challenge—to write Don Quixote as Pierre Menard. As a result, the narrator tells us, "The text of Cervantes and that of Menard are verbally identical, but the second is almost infinitely richer" (p. 52). In this story, Borges displays the inherent contradiction between, on the one hand, attempting to anchor the text historically in relation to its author and, on the other hand, claiming that a text transcends its time. By insisting that the second Don Quixote is "infinitely richer," Borges imagines that the temporal displacement enriches and changes the text, even though the later version is "verbally identical." The second Twelfth Night, dated at 1601, may not necessarily be "infinitely richer" but it has certainly occasioned many more readings of the play, including some analyses explicitly based on the 1601 date, like Leslie Hotson's The First Night of Twelfth Night.15

For the readers of the early nineteenth century, Twelfth Night is a comedy self-evidently from the close of Shakespeare's career. Yet, for the twentieth-century reader, with the benefit of 150 years of scholarship based on the 1601 date, Twelfth Night is obviously a middle comedy with connections to Hamlet and to the tragedies. Like the two versions of Don Quixote in Borges's story—one from the sixteenth century and one from the twentieth—the Folio text of Twelfth Night before 1831 and after are typographically identical, but utterly different.

Although Twelfth Night seems one of the least problematic works in the Shakespearean canon because we can now establish its date so confidently, the achievement of that fixed date actually reveals the text's multiplicity rather than its singularity. Moreover, the real purpose of dating Twelfth Night or any Shakespearean play is not so much absolute as relational. The shift of Twelfth Night's date not only exposes the doubled nature of that play, but also calls into question the status of The Tempest. The speculation on The Tempest as Shakespeare's last play (and final statement) originated at the time when Twelfth Night's date shifted. Malone corrected his own chronology in 1821 to give the date as 1607, and, as Gary Taylor notes, Thomas Campbell at around the same time first put forward the attractive theory about The Tempest's valedictory quality.16

When Malone initially published his attempt to discover the order of Shakespeare's plays, he laid out the potential importance of such knowledge: "While it has been the endeavour of all his editors and commentators, to illustrate his obscurities, and to regulate and correct his text, no attempt has been made to trace the progress and order of his plays. Yet surely it is no incurious speculation, to mark the gradations by which he rose from mediocrity to the summit of excellence; from artless and uninteresting dialogues, to those unparalleled compositions, which have rendered him the delight and wonder of successive ages" (pp. 270-71). Malone implied that the idea of giving a chronology to Shakespeare's works had not occurred to anyone before him, even though Nicholas Rowe indicated his own curiosity concerning the dating of the plays as early as 1709 (Taylor, p. 157). Malone also linked chronology to the evolution of Shakespeare's art. Indeed the readers and critics of Malone's day were interested in his chronology and fashioned their own theories of Shakespeare's development. Joseph Graves gave a typical view: "It is probable that such as were founded on the works of preceding authors, were the first essays of his dramatic talent: and such as were more perfectly his own, and are of the first sparkle of excellence, were among his last" (pp. 9-10). Graves, like Malone and others, carried his point by inviting the reader to compare the earlier works with the superior later ones.

The significance of dates, then, is twofold. The comedy's date of composition determines its connections with the other plays, and those connections anchor the text to the author's evolving psyche. As Margreta de Grazia has argued, Malone's purpose in determining the sequence of plays was little more than a small part of his overarching aim to establish Shakespeare as an individual. She further suggests that this treatment of Shakespeare's artistic development becomes a model for the emerging bourgeois subject.17 That model hinged on the idea that his development registered ever-greater perfection.

Comments on Twelfth Night found in performance editions before 1831 underscore this notion. George Daniel's 1830 introduction to the play is particularly fulsome: "It is, therefore, not without emotion that we approach this last work of Shakspeare's mighty genius. . . . That Shakspeare parted with the world on terms of friendship, this legacy of his love sufficiently demonstrates; though, in the Epilogue Song (the last lines that he ever wrote,) we think we can discover something that savours of transient bitterness" (Cumberland, p. 5). Daniel even goes so far as to praise John Fawcett's acting of Feste by commenting that "he sang the Epilogue Song with true comic spirit; and with a harmony and feeling as if conscious that the last words of Shakspeare were trembling on his lips" (Cumberland, p. 7). While asserting Twelfth Night's privileged position as the last play, these statements also raise several problems.

Most striking, perhaps, is the reference to the Epilogue Song, which we are asked to take as Shakespeare's last words. After all, Malone himself notes that the song appears "earlier" in Shakespeare's career, in a slightly different form as one of the Fool's songs in Lear18 If Feste's cryptic song is Shakespeare's final statement, the various attempts to decipher or dismiss the song which begin as early as 1774 with Bell's edition take on new significance: "The epilogue song gives spirit to the conclusion, tho' there is very little meaning in it, except a trifling address to the audience in the last line" (Bell, vol. 5, p. 329).19 The song troubled Leigh Hunt as well, who praised Fawcett's presentation of the Clown's role but disliked the song: "Yet we do not like to think that this was the last song which Shakespeare wrote. It has too much of the scorn of the world and all he has seen in it."20

There are also more subtle problems revealed in the assumptions expressed by Daniel. For example, it is now common knowledge (with all the uncertainty the phrase should imply) that Shakespeare left the theatre well before he left the world. Yet placing the date of Twelfth Night at 1614 suggests that Shakespeare wrote the play after retiring from London. Twelfth Night is thus not only the last of his plays but also a work written after he left the playhouse. Malone goes to some lengths to explore this most unusual aspect of Tyrwhitt's date. He develops an elaborate explanation of why Shakespeare would take up the pen again after he had abandoned the theatre: "When Shakspeare quitted London and his profession, for the tranquillity of a rural retirement, it is improbable that such an excursive genius should have been immediately reconciled to a state of mental inactivity. .. . To the necessity, therefore, of literary amusement to every cultivated mind, or to the dictates of friendship, or to both these incentives, we are perhaps indebted for the comedy of Twelfth Night; which bears evident marks of having been composed at leisure, as most of the characters that it contains, are finished to a higher degree of dramatick perfection, than is discoverable in our author's earlier comick performances" (Malone, p. 344). Malone perceived a greater perfection in Shakespeare's characterization in his "last" comedy, underscoring his notions of Shakespeare's developmental improvement. Daniel concurred and reinforced this sentiment in the opening of his introduction: "We have now come to the last production of the Divine Shakspeare. Having followed his genius through its bright path of glory, we arrive at the point where it sets, with a splendour worthy of its highest meridian" (Cumberland, p. 5).

These comments may seem like little more than amusing, if antiquated, examples of previous misconceptions about Shakespeare, which we can safely ignore. Nevertheless, the readers of Shakespeare in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries knew a different Twelfth Night from the 1601 text we read now, whether they subscribed to the bardolatrous view of the comedy which Daniel offers or thought, as the Oxberry edition tells us, that "it is not a little singular that this play should be one of the last of Shakspeare's productions, a play that has all the joyousness and revelry of youth about it" (Oxberry, p. ii).

Even though explanations of Shakespeare's developing art have changed considerably, Malone was more prophetic than he knew. While perhaps no longer a subject as hotly debated as it was when Malone and George Chalmers argued about whether Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night "in 1614 or in 1613" (Souvenir, p. v), the dating of his plays still functions as the unacknowledged foundation for many critical arguments. Our readings depend upon the coincidences recorded in Manningham's diary as thoroughly as Malone and Tyrwhitt relied on a coincidental reference to undertakers. However, as the twins' experiences in the play and Malone's error point out, coincidences do not necessarily indicate simultaneity. Current criticism may take a different model of development, but it derives comparably from the interconnections between chronologically linked plays and their presumed reflections of an author's individual evolving psyche.

For example, many psychoanalytic approaches to Twelfth Night rely on its position in Shakespeare's development. Leonard Manheim argues that the play is a wish-fulfillment fantasy restoring the playwright's son Hamnet, twin to Judith, who died in 1596.21 In turn, Thomas MacCary discovers in the plays a model of male sexual development through homoerotic attraction which he sees most fully expressed in the mature comedies like Twelfth Night: "The late romances do not share that fervour and obsession so characteristic in the mature comedies like Twelfth Night."22 Joel Fineman, in his argument about the shifting uses of doubling at the crucial shift in Shakespeare's career from comedy to tragedy, implicitly depends on the contemporaneity of the four plays he considers, As You Like It, Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida, and, of course, Twelfth Night.23 Likewise, C. L. Barber and Richard Wheeler explicitly rely on canon chronology for their study of Shakespeare's psychology, The Whole Journey.24 For these critics, involved in considering Shakespeare's development, the status of Twelfth Night as mature comedy is essential and unquestioned.

Even critics less overtly concerned with Shakespeare's overall psychological development also assume the fixed placement of Twelfth Night in the canon. Nowhere in his essay about the problem of identity in the play does Dennis Huston specify the play's date as a concern, yet he opens the essay by explicitly linking the comedy to Hamlet and brackets the comedy's treatment of sexuality as "an idea that Shakespeare used twice before as a starting point for comedy—in Love's Labour's Lost and The Taming of the Shrew—and would use again with more serious overtones in Measure for Measure" (p. 283). Matthew Wikander, who juxtaposes psychological and anthropological readings of adolescent experience in Twelfth Night with the experiences of the boy-actress in Shakespeare's company, also calls upon Hamlet in support of the ambivalence toward the theatre which he reads in the boy-actress facing his uncertain future in the company.25

In contrast to the central and sometimes invisible role of the 1601 date in these studies, the 1614 date figures in current criticism only as a curiosity. Both Margreta de Grazia and Gary Taylor mention it in passing, but both are more concerned with the developing uses of Shakespeare as an icon rather than with the development of a particular set of texts. Taylor, for example, dismisses Leigh Hunt's praise of Twelfth Night as Shakespeare's last play with the conclusion that, given modern scholarship, Hunt is wrong (p. 157). The 1614 date is simply incorrect and therefore irrelevant. Or is it? After all, Taylor catalogs successive generations of scholars and readers who all discover their own versions of Shakespearean authenticity, and de Grazia explores late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century scholarly recuperations in terms of the emergence of bourgeois subjectivity. Similarly, because revisions of the date relocate and duplicate a text like Twelfth Night, the text's relationships to the rest of the canon are more historical constructs than transparent reflections of Shakespeare's development.

The shift in Twelfth Night's date implicitly challenges any absolute assumptions, including our own, about the comedy's position in the Shakespearean canon. The historical contingency of our ideas about Shakespeare's chronology, based on the evidence available now, suggests that the suppositions in our current criticism and the analyses themselves are only provisional. However, the resulting loss of transcendent truth does not negate the value of their readings and assumptions or of ours. Instead the significance of successive understandings of the Shakespearean text derives from their historical specificity, that is, from their placement within a particular cultural situation and historical moment. Consequently, the 1614 date of Twelfth Night is more than a mistake or an oddity; it is one of those historical moments which reveals the multiplicity of Shakespearean plays in general and of Twelfth Night in particular. Collier's discovery changed the Twelfth Night texts as it changed the comedy's date of composition because the physical texts of the play, which we think of as permanent and limited, always exist only within a multiplicity of contexts, including their several selves.

For some scholars, this multiplicity may seem easily resolved. After all, doesn't the problem disappear if what is "really" changing is the interpretation and not the material text itself? This question raises the implicit issue of the material text and its boundaries. The narrative of Twelfth Night's changing date actually reveals three distinct texts, all of which are (at least potentially) typographically the same. The first is the Twelfth Night for which the date of composition is irrelevant and unknowable, mere speculation according to Nicholas Rowe. When Malone introduces the importance of recovering the chronology of Shakespeare's plays, not only does he initiate the creation of the Shakespearean subject, as de Grazia argues, he also creates a second Twelfth Night, composed around 1614. With the chronology, what was outside the text and unnoted becomes part of the text and inseparable from its interpretation. As the 1601 date gradually became well known, altering the comedy's position among Shakespeare's plays, the change yielded yet a third Twelfth Night. The very typographical sameness of these Twelfth Night texts points to the real issue: what is inside and what is outside the text? The uncertainty of the text's limits, which this chapter explores in terms of date, the rest of this book examines in terms of the many physical texts associated with Shakespeare's comedy.

Thus double dating offers my first negotiations between "inside" and "outside" the text. When Jacques Derrida argues that the text is "henceforth no longer a finished corpus of writing, some content enclosed in a book or its margins, but a differential network, a fabric of traces referring endlessly to something other than itself," he suggests that texts endlessly overrun their apparent boundaries.26 Nonetheless, we assume an inside and an outside to texts like Twelfth Night. On the one hand, the shifting grounds of Twelfth Night's date implies that dating is somehow outside the text, changeable, subject to constant revision, victim to chance, coincidence, and time. The double date is an aberration; our current date is correct. On the other hand, the changes that Twelfth Night underwent between the early nineteenth century and now, merely because of the dating, suggest that the changeability of Twelfth Night's date is part of the multiple traces which break open the notion of the singular text.

In the shift of dates, the texts of Twelfth Night experience a temporal dislocation similar to that the twins experience in Illyria; the 1614 Twelfth Night exists in a different time with different connections than the 1601 Twelfth Night, even though they both occur in one place—the Folio text. When the coincidences overwhelmingly support the 1602 date, Twelfth Night apparently takes on a fixed, determinant date. Comparably, when coincidence supports Sebastian's version of time, identity is restored, as Viola redefines herself in terms of father/author and twin. The mysterious other time which Viola/Cesario occupied during the comedy vanishes, just as the 1614 date of the Tyrwhitt Twelfth Night becomes irrelevant and has, in essence, vanished. Perhaps the spectators watching the play, like the critics now discussing the date, would not notice the double time of the twins' experience, yet it is that separation and reunion of the twins in time which underscores the metaphoric force of relative time in many relationships within the play.

As a result, the end of Twelfth Night gives a truer picture than the current critical perception of a single Twelfth Night fashioned around 1600: Viola and Sebastian are twins, the same in appearance but involved in different relationships. The Tyrwhitt Twelfth Night, associated with the late plays and implicated in an early-nineteenth-century theory of Shakespeare's development, and the Manningham Twelfth Night, associated with the end of Shakespeare's comic writing and implicated in his psychological development, are the same but different. The existence of the second does not negate or dissolve the experience of the first, any more than the dominance of Sebastian's time and the resulting coincidences negate Viola's earlier experiences in the play. Twelfth Night leaves us with both twins, and I argue that this history of double dating leaves us with multiple texts. The odd congruence of the history of Twelfth Night's dating and the stories of the twins within the play is, of course, just coincidence.

For my reading, that coincidence demonstrates that the multiplicity of texts, generated materially through history as Jerome McGann suggests, constantly reworks the boundaries of "the text."27 The permeable, provisional edges, the Derridean "folds" where suddenly the outside edge touches the inside of the form, open a space which is somehow neither inside nor outside.28 Reading the "outside" history of Shakespearean texts, as this book does, does not and cannot avoid reading the "inside" of those texts as well. This continuing transgression of the textual edges, which are themselves constantly under construction and erasure, is an essential feature of my critical project. The apparently exterior history of performance editions—considered to be outside proper textual history, irrelevant to reading the play, tangential in critical scholarship—also offers an "interior" history of the comedy: a repetition of loss and return, impossible desire and shifting sexual identity, displacement and continuity, and, inevitably, simultaneity and coincidence.


1 William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night: The Arden Shakespeare, ed. J. M. Lothian and T. W. Craik (New York: Methuen, 1975), act 2, scene 1, lines 18-20. All further references to the play by act, scene, and line (rather than edition name and date) refer to the Arden edition and appear in the body of the chapter.

2 Olivia's emotional turmoils are also marked by time as a clock inexplicably strikes in the middle of her confession of love for Cesario and she responds, "The clock upbraids me with the waste of time" (3.1.132).

3 J. Dennis Huston, "'When I Came to Man's Estate': Twelfth Night and Problems of Identity," Modern Language Quarterly 33 (1972): 274.

4 J. Dover Wilson (ed., with Arthur Quiller-Couch), Twelfth Night, or What You Will (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1930), p. 163, n. 93.

5 Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, in Complete Works of Oscar Wilde (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1989), p. 363.

6 Horace Howard Furness, Introduction to The New Variorum Shakespeare: "Twelfth Night" (New York: American Scholars Publications, 1966), p. viii. Tyrwhitt's contribution to the scholarly production of Shakespeare's works in the eighteenth century has recently received more formal recognition in Arthur Sherbo's Shakespeare's Midwives: Some Neglected Shakespeareans (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1992).

7 Edmond Malone, "An Attempt to Ascertain the Order in Which the Plays Attributed to Shakespeare Were Written," in The Works of William Shakespeare, vol. 1, ed. George Steevens and Samuel Johnson (London: Bathurst, 1778), pp. 269-71. Malone did change his mind and in a later edition gave the date as 1607. I provide the full text of these titles, but regularize the capitalization in both chapters and the bibliography of performance editions.

8 Joseph Graves, The Life of William Shakespeare: Collected and Arranged from Numerous Rare and Authentic Documents. Containing Every Fact of Importance from the Birth of This Eminent Poet to the Close of His Brilliant Career. To Which Are Added His Last Will and Testament (London: Printed and Published by J. Duncombe, n.d.), p. 10.

9 Charles Symmons, "The Life of Shakespeare," bound up in The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Leipzig: Baumgartner, 1837), p. ix.

10The Dramatic Souvenir: Being Literary and Graphical Illustrations of SHAKESPEARE and Other Celebrated English Dramatists (London: Charles Tilt, Fleet Street, 1833), p. 26.

11 John William Cole's annotated Shakespeariana is part of the Folger Shakespeare Library's Shakespeare Miscellany (verso to page 68).

12 J. P. Collier, The History of English Dramatic Poetry to the Time of Shakspeare, vol. 1 (London: John Murray, 1831), pp. 327-28.

13 William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night: Chambers's Household Shakespeare (London and Edinburgh: Printed by William and Robert Chambers, n.d. [1840]).

14 Jorge Luis Borges, "Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote," in Ficciones, trans. Anthony Bonner, ed. Anthony Kerrigan (New York: Grove Press, 1962), p. 48.

15 See Leslie Hotson, The First Night of Twelfth Night (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1954).

16 Gary Taylor, Reinventing Shakespeare: A Cultural History from the Restoration to the Present (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), pp. 171-72.

17 Margreta de Grazia, Shakespeare Verbatim: The Reproduction of Authenticity and the 1790 Apparatus (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991).

18 William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of King Lear, in The Complete Oxford Shakespeare, vol. 3, ed. Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), act 3, scene 2, lines 74-77.

19 See Karen Greif, "A Star Is Born: Feste on the Modern Stage," Shakespeare Quarterly 39 (1988): 61-78.

20Leigh Hunt's Dramatic Criticism: 1808-1831, ed. Lawrence Huston Houtchens and Carolyn Washburn Houtchens (New York: Columbia University Press, 1949), p. 231.

21 Leonard F. Manheim, "The Mythical Joys of Shakespeare: Or, What You Will," in The Design Within: Psychoanalytic Approaches to Shakespeare, ed. M. D. Faber (New York: Science House, 1970).

22 W. Thomas MacCary, Friends and Lovers: The Phenomenology of Desire in Shakespeare's Comedies (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), p. 190.

23 Joel Fineman, "Fratricide and Cuckoldry: Shakespeare's Doubles," in Representing Shakespeare: New Psychoanalytic Essays, ed. Murray Schwartz and Coppélia Kahn (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980), pp. 70-109.

24 C. L. Barber and Richard Wheeler, The Whole Journey: Shakespeare's Power of Development Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986).

52 Matthew Wikander, "Secret as Maidenhead: The Profession of the Boy-Actress in Twelfth Night, " Comparative Drama 20 (1986): 349-63.

26 Jacques Derrida, "Living On," in Deconstruction and Criticism, ed. Harold Bloom et al. (New York: Seabury Press, 1979), p. 84.

27 Jerome McGann, The Textual Condition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), pp. 9-11.

28 Derrida associates this kind of coincidence with the study of borders in Blanchot's narrative where "the edge of the set [ensemble] is a fold [pli] in the set." The fold he discovers, the invaginated structure he describes, where the "inverted reapplication of the outer edge to the inside of a form where the outside then opens a pocket," offers the text as Kleinian bottle, where the outside somehow becomes an inside (Derrida, "Living On," p. 96).

Source: "Double Dating," in The Trick of Singularity: Twelfth Night and the Performance Editions, University of Iowa Press, 1996, pp. 1-14.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Chaos and Order in Twelfth Night


Gender Trouble in Twelfth Night