Twelfth Night


An intricate comedy featuring separated twins, disguises, and impediments to love, Twelfth Night is Shakespeare's farewell to the comedic genre and what many consider to be his greatest achievement in that mode. This invaluable new study guide to one of Shakespeare's greatest plays contains a selection of the finest criticism through the centuries on Twelfth Night, including commentaries by such important critics as Samuel Johnson, Charles Lamb, A. C. Bradley, Harold C. Goddard, and many others. Students will ...

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An intricate comedy featuring separated twins, disguises, and impediments to love, Twelfth Night is Shakespeare's farewell to the comedic genre and what many consider to be his greatest achievement in that mode. This invaluable new study guide to one of Shakespeare's greatest plays contains a selection of the finest criticism through the centuries on Twelfth Night, including commentaries by such important critics as Samuel Johnson, Charles Lamb, A. C. Bradley, Harold C. Goddard, and many others. Students will also benefit from the additional features in this volume, including an introduction by Harold Bloom, an accessible summary of the plot, an analysis of several key passages, a comprehensive list of characters, a biography of Shakespeare, essays discussing the main currents of criticism in each century since Shakespeare's time, and more.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780791096758
  • Publisher: Blooms Literary Criticism
  • Publication date: 4/28/2008
  • Series: Bloom's Shakespeare through the Ages Series
  • Pages: 248
  • Sales rank: 542,502
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Harold Bloom
Harold Bloom
One of our most popular, respected, and controversial literary critics, Yale University professor Harold Bloom’s books – about, variously, Shakespeare, the Bible, and the classic literature – are as erudite as they are accessible.


"Authentic literature doesn't divide us," the scholar and literary critic Harold Bloom once said. "It addresses itself to the solitary individual or consciousness." Revered and sometimes reviled as a champion of the Western canon, Bloom insists on the importance of reading authors such as Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer -- not because they transmit certain approved cultural values, but because they transcend the limits of culture, and thus enlarge rather than constrict our sense of what it means to be human. As Bloom explained in an interview, "Shakespeare is the true multicultural author. He exists in all languages. He is put on the stage everywhere. Everyone feels that they are represented by him on the stage."

Bloom began his career by tackling the formidable legacy of T.S. Eliot, who had dismissed the English Romantic poets as undisciplined nature-worshippers. Bloom construed the Romantic poets' visions of immortality as rebellions against nature, and argued that an essentially Romantic imagination was still at work in the best modernist poets.

Having restored the Romantics to critical respectability, Bloom advanced a more general theory of poetry. His now-famous The Anxiety of Influence argued that any strong poem is a creative "misreading" of the poet's predecessor. The book raised, as the poet John Hollander wrote, "profound questions about... how the prior visions of other poems are, for a true poet, as powerful as his own dreams and as formative as his domestic childhood." In addition to developing this theory, Bloom wrote several books on sacred texts. In The Book of J, he suggested that some of the oldest parts of the Bible were written by a woman.

The Book of J was a bestseller, but it was the 1994 publication of The Western Canon that made the critic-scholar a household name. In it, Bloom decried what he called the "School of Resentment" and the use of political correctness as a basis for judging works of literature. His defense of the threatened canon formed, according to The New York Times, a "passionate demonstration of why some writers have triumphantly escaped the oblivion in which time buries almost all human effort."

Bloom placed Shakespeare along with Dante at the center of the Western canon, and he made another defense of Shakespeare's centrality with Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, an illuminating study of Shakespeare's plays. How to Read and Why (2000) revisited Shakespeare and other writers in the Bloom pantheon, and described the act of reading as both a spiritual exercise and an aesthetic pleasure.

Recently, Bloom took up another controversial stance when he attacked Harry Potter in an essay for The Wall Street Journal. His 2001 book Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages advanced an alternative to contemporary children's lit, with a collection of classic works of literature "worthy of rereading" by people of all ages.

The poet and editor David Lehman said that "while there are some critics who are known for a certain subtlety and a certain judiciousness, there are other critics... who radiate ferocious passion." Harold Bloom is a ferociously passionate reader for whom literary criticism is, as he puts it, "the art of making what is implicit in the text as finely explicit as possible."

Good To Know

Bloom earned his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1955 and was hired as a Yale faculty member that same year. In 1965, at the age of 35, he became one of the youngest scholars in Yale history to be appointed full professor in the department of English. He is now Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale and Berg Visiting Professor of English at New York University.

Though some conservative commentators embraced Bloom's canon as a return to traditional moral values, Bloom, who once styled himself "a Truman Democrat," dismisses attempts by both left- and right-wingers to politicize literature. "To read in the service of any ideology is not, in my judgment, to read at all," he told a New York Times interviewer.

His great affinity for Shakespeare has put Bloom in the unlikely position of stage actor on occasion; he has played his "literary hero," port-loving raconteur Sir John Falstaff, in three productions.

Bloom is married to Jeanne, a retired school psychologist whom he met while a junior faculty member at Yale in the 1950s. They have two sons.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Harold Irving Bloom (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York and New Haven, Connecticut
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 11, 1930
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Cornell University, 1951; Ph.D., Yale University, 1955

Table of Contents

Series Introduction     ix
Introduction   Harold Bloom     xi
Biography of William Shakespeare     1
Summary of Twelfth Night     5
Key Passages in Twelfth Night     17
List of Characters in Twelfth Night     25
Criticism Through the Ages     27
Twelfth Night in the Seventeenth Century     29
1601-John Manningham. From his Diary, February 2     30
1663-Samuel Pepys. From The Diary of Samuel Pepys     30
Twelfth Night in the Eighteenth Century     31
1753-Charlotte Lennox. "The Fable of Twelfth-Night, or What You Will," from Shakespear Illustrated, or the Novels and Histories on which the Plays of Shakespear Are Founded     32
1765-Samuel Johnson. From "Notes on Twelfth Night, or What You Will," from The Plays of William Shakespear     39
1775-Elizabeth Griffith. "Twelfth Night: or, What You Will," from The Morality of Shakespeare's Drama Illustrated     39
Twelfth Night in the Nineteenth Century     45
1817-William Hazlitt. "Twelfth Night: or, What You Will," from Characters of Shakespear's Plays     47
1823-Charles Lamb. From On Some of the Old Actors     52
1833-Anna Jameson. From "Viola," from Shakspeare's Heroines: Characteristics of Women, Moral, Poetical, & Historical     53
1839-Charles Knight. From The Pictorial Edition of the Works of Shakspere     56
1847-G. C. Verplanck. From The Illustrated Shakespeare     58
1876-John Weiss. From Wit, Humor, and Shakspeare     59
1876-Hermann Ulrici. "Twelfth Night; or, What You Will," from Shakspeare's Dramatic Art: History and Character of Shakespeare's Plays (third edition)     61
1877-F. J. Furnivall. From "Introduction to the Play," from The Leopold Shakspere     67
1894-Arthur Symons. "Notes and Introduction to Twelfth Night; or, What You Will," from The Works of William Shakespeare (The Henry Irving Shakespeare)     70
1898-Georg Brandes. "Twelfth Night," from William Shakespeare: A Critical Study     73
Twelfth Night in the Twentieth Century     83
1907-Maurice Hewlett. "Introduction to Twelfth Night," from The Complete Works of William Shakespeare     84
1914-Morris P. Tilley. "The Organic Unity of Twelfth Night," from PMLA     93
1915-William Winter. "Character of Viola," from Shakespeare on the Stage     103
1916-A. C. Bradley. "Feste the Jester," from A Book of Homage to Shakespeare     105
1925-J. B. Priestley. "The Illyrians," from The English Comic Characters     111
1932-G. Wilson Knight. From "The Romantic Comedies," from The Shakespearian Tempest     122
1951-Harold C. Goddard. "Twelfth Night," from The Meaning of Shakespeare     128
1958-Leo Salingar. "The Design of Twelfth Night," from Shakespeare Quarterly     140
1959-C. L. Barber. "Testing Courtesy and Humanity in Twelfth Night," from Shakespeare's Festive Comedy     168
1966-Jan Kott. From "Shakespeare's Bitter Arcadia," from Shakespeare Our Contemporary     187
1987-Harold Bloom. "Introduction," from Twelfth Night (Chelsea House)     193
Twelfth Night in the Twenty-first Century     199
2002-David Bevington. From "Last Scene of All: Retirement from the Theatre," from Shakespeare: An Introduction     199
2006-R. W. Maslen. "Twelfth Night, Gender, and Comedy," from Early Modern English Drama: A Critical Companion     203
Bibliography     215
Acknowledgments     219
Index     221

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