I chose Shakespeare’s Twelth Night as a base of my project for Royal Shakespeare Company. I started by looking for as many sources of interpretations of that play as many I could find. By doing this reserch I was able to come up with my idea for micro short animaton. Below I showing fragments of my essay in which I concluded my studies.
In Twelfth Night, Viola’s circumstances find her shipwrecked in the strange land of Illyria, motivating her to adopt male dress as a practical means of survival in an alien environment. She hide her own identity and invents new one, male Cesario. By this mean she substitute herself for her twin brother Sebastian and challenges society’s patriarchal constraints. in result, her disguise misguides other characters, who mistake her for man and next for Sebastian. However She is aware of the wickedness of disguise. She declares, “Disguise, I see thou art a wickedness / Wherein the pregnant enemy does much” (2.2.27-28). Viola refers herself as a “poor monster”, as she touches on the fearsome aspects of her disguise that have been evident to us as she moves ambiguously from Orsino to Olivia (Kahn,p.208). Both are drawn to Viola because they find in her those of the oposite sex to which they are attracted. Viola also feel close bond with Orsino and also finds herself in difficult situation to handle because she can’t reveal her love for him since he believes she is a man.
Through these , Shakespeare raises questions about our real identity, about what makes us who we really are. Are things like gender and class written in stone or is it possible that they can be altered? Viola’s cross-dressing offers challenge to easy notions of binarity, putting into question the categories of female and male whether they are considered essential or constructed, biological or cultural (Elam, 2008, p.28),. Indeed, Viola transvestism questions all categorical distinction and opositions , creating a space of possibility structuring and confounding culture: the distruptive element that intervenes, not just as category crisis of male and female, but the crisis of category itself (p.28). Viola’s “Cesario” disguise blurring the boundaries of gender, which just goes to show that gender can be impersonated or acted, like any kind of theatrical or social role. In this context, gender is socially constructed identification by clothes we are wearing. Therefore gender changes across time and also depends on the culture in which is embebed.
Shakespeare often uses mistaken identity with connection of twin theme and such approach he uses in Twelth Night. This can be explain by his personal experience as Shakespeare himself was the father of boy and girl twins, Hamnet and Judith. His son Hamnet died at the age of 11, and it is very possible that Shakespeare might have known then what modern research into twin siblings has indicated, mainly that the death of a twin seems to cause a kind of desolation in its twin brother or sister. This kind of desolation is said to be of a different kind than with the loss of another loved one by death. The surviving twin often tries to compensate for the loss of its brother or sister by attempting to assume his/her identity (Verbruggen, n.d.).
From that point of view Shakespeare also quest for self-identity in the context of family and life cycle. Twelfth Nights also depict the separation of family members in a literal or methaphorical tempest, the resulting sorrow and confusion, and the ultimate reunion of the family, with a renewed sense of identity or rebirth for its members. Viola’s reunion with Sebastian result in her revelation of her self identity.
Erik Erikson’s division of the lifelong process of identity formation into stages can help us grasp the tempest action as a symbol for the way family relationships shape the growing self. the great normative crisis of identity occurs in adolescence; it is then that instinctual and social imperatives for intimacy with the opposite sex , and pressures toward settled choice of work and way of life, arise to create a crisis, defined by Erikson as “a necessary turning point, when development must move create a recoil, a regressive pull back into the family, into the identifications of early, pre- oedipal stage of ego building. In effect adolescent re-experiences separation and individuation (Kahn, p.195).
Peter Blos characterizes adolescence as dominated by two broad affective states: mourning and being in love. Confronted with the great imperative of finding someone to love, the adolescence must give up the strongest ties of love, those he feels with his parents. To give them up, he must mourn them. He does this indirectly, by merging narcistically with persons who can mirror him as that parent once did, in effect he recapitulates the symbolic merger with the mother preceding separation and individuation (Kahn, p.196).
Even though no definite conclusion can be reached in a subject like this, I hope to have shown that within disguise in Twelfth Night we touches very broad topic of self-identification in the context of sexual identity and social affiliation. These aspects provide extremely interesting concept to approach final project for Micro Short character animation.
My intention is to produce film in relation to the final scene from Twelfths Night when twin reunite. It is the moment of truth and revelation of real identity of Viola and Sebastian. Viola can finally unveil her feminine gender and reveal love to Orsino and be trully herself. This moment is described in terms of optical illusion: ‘One face, one voice, one habit and two persons/ A natural perspective , that is and is not” (5.1.212-13). Orsino refers here to optical special effects: either anamorphic mirrors or lenses that created distorted or multiple images, or on the contrary, a perspective glass , namely a tube with faceted lens making multiple images appear as one (Elam,29). This metaphor can be explained as anamorphic doubling of Cesario into two selves , or in contrary the reduction of two separate characters to a single identity. This methaphore will be a key point of my animation and will be demonstrated through a mirror as a device which reflect our accurate or distorted image of ourselves.
Besides Twelfth Night there are two artists that influenced my idea and I used their work as reference. Firstly, I was captivated by work of sculptor Eva Caridi titled Nude which present interactive labyrinth installation. Her work serving as a commentary on the human condition, on what lies in each of us underneath the cultural layers we are cloaked in. It is the human soul, undressed of the superfluous and the ephemeral, of the constraints and structures society holds us prisoners to. The minimalism of the installation, acts as a primordial filter to re-reach our purest essence that will hopefully get to be revealed as we, the audience, step into the labyrinth and embark on a spiritual journey (russianmind.com).
Eva Caridi comments: “Nude is a fragile condition of human existence; I choose this title to try to embody the essence of my inspiration; being human, time and introspection. The labyrinth’s force you into a pilgrimage, a journey through time ascending towards a personal state of mind. Innocence can be lost if you cannot get to the point where you can understand yourself and surrender to that state of mind. As people we complicate things and ignore the simple meaning of our existence. There are many messages you can get from this exhibition; I am merely the architect helping people reach whatever conclusion they want about themselves” (www.evacaridi.com)
Second inspirational artist is Sofia Szamosi who express her art through photo boot strips. She create her her documentation of her personal searching and relationship with outer world, negotiation between the lived experience of gender and the performance of it. She compares photo boot to societal constructed frames that form our beliefs about ourselves. Szamosi states: “I exist within an inherently gender-obsessed society, where norms about what it means to be a woman and man are instilled in us from birth. But something in me rejects this implantation and I cannot function without questioning daily the choices I make”.