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Twelfth Night On The Double

Reviewing: Wiley Shakespeare On The Double  |  Rating:
ohthethinksyouwillthink By ohthethinksyouwillthink on
Badge: Publisher | Level: 11 | Fiction & Creative Expertise:
Image for Twelfth Night - On The Double

I love to read, and enjoy all sorts of genres. Once in awhile, I enjoy the challenge of older literature, particularily a good Shakespeare play.

My most recent Shakespeare read was A Twelfth Night. The edition I read was part of a larger selection of Shakespeare plays called Shakespeare On The Double. These books are designed to make Shakespeare more understandable, by actually having two written copies of the play in the book. All of the left-handed pages contain the original play, while all of the right-handed pages contain the same portion of the script in a modern translation. The two versions are constantly side by side so you can compare back and forth.

I really liked reading the play this way. I actually read it through twice, once completely in the original, and afterwards in the modern version. I especially liked how the updated version made the lines more understandable, while still keeping the formal, poetic air to the character's speech. Here's an example from Act Two:

Original: "My masters, are you mad? Or what are you? Have you no wit, manners, nor honesty, but to gabble like tinkers at this time of night? Do you make an ale-house of my lady's house, that ye squeak out your coziers' catches without any mitigation or remorse of voice? Is there no respect of place, persons, nor time in you?"

Modern Translation: "Gentlemen, are you crazy? Why all the noise? Have you no sense, courtesy, or respect but to warble like gypsies late at night? Have you turned the Countess Olivia's home into a barroom? Do you squeak out your cobblers' tunes without softening or restraining your voices? Have you no respect of this place, this household, nor the time of night?"

I think this series would be an excellent choice for high school teachers as they teach Shakespeare. As the class reads portions together, one student could read the original, and the other could follow with the translation. I think the class would get much more out of it this way, maybe even coming to enjoy the wit that is present in the language of the plays. It would also save the teacher much work and explanation! Instead of defining every term, let the translation do that for you.

The story of A Twelfth Night is one of mistaken identity and love triangles. Two siblings, Sabastien and Viola, are shipwrecked on the island of Illyria. Viola, being a woman in that era, decides it would be safer for her to impersonate a man while she is alone and without protection. She does this sucessfully, and becomes a servant in the household of a Duke, where her primary responsibility is to relay messages between the Duke and his love interest, Countess Olivia. Hilariously, Olivia will have nothing to do with the Duke, but finds herself falling for the handsome messenger, who she believes to be a man! If you have ever seen the teen movie, She's the Man, then you basically know how this all plays out. She's the Man was based on this play, and stays true to the main elements of this messy love triangle. And, like the movie, things get even messier when Viola's brother Sabastien arrives and the two are mistaken for each other.

Overall, this isn't my favourite Shakespeare play. It seems shorter and not as deep as some of his classic works like Hamlet, or Julius Ceasar. However, it might be a good one to start with if you are introducing teens to Shakespeare, and I definitely recommend the On The Double series as a whole.

This book was a gift, so I don't know where it was purchased, but the cover price is $8.99 US or $9.99 Canadian.

Happy reading!