12th Night and Shakespeare’s Sonnets


What a wonderful gift to have Professor Barry Spurr gracing us with his extraordinarily insightful lecture on Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Barry provided a rich intellectual context for seeing how Shakespeare’s sonnets (and plays), emanating from an author with a middle-class background, were deeply subversive of the hierarchy in England and also of the Italian influence. It is indeed paradoxical -as was pointed out by one of our students- that while Shakespeare so often turns to Italy- and indeed to Rome- for his inspiration, he is yet so deeply critical of aspects of the traditions that were imported into England in the 16th Century. Malvolio is perhaps a really interesting case in point. A character with an Italian name, and yet a character who, in name and nature is lampooned for being such a control-freak, such a puritan party-pooper. As our wonderful anarchist Sir Toby Belch is so fond of saying (in every single production of 12th Night):


“Art any more than a steward? Dost thou think because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?”

Blog Topics for Week 9


In your own words describe exactly what the Sir Toby Belch and Malvolio look like in the image above. How does the presentation of the two characters in this Globe Theatre production, powerfully emphasise the difference in their two characters.


Closely examine any one of Thomas Wyatt’s translations from the Petrarchan sonnets (in Norton) and explain what this shows about the Petrarchan tradition of love.


Take the first line of any one of Shakespeare’s sonnets and try to construct your own sonnet using an iambic pentameter and no more than 14 lines.


What picture of love/lurve is presented in the opening scene of 12th Night. How is this picture reflected in the language choices Shakespeare makes.


In your own words, but in the character of Maria, give Sir Toby Belch a good talking to, telling him he has to change his ways (in a paragraph of contemporary prose).


What is the meaning of 12th Night as an event in the calendar around Christmas. How does a knowledge of this event help the reader/listener gain some understanding of what the play might be about as a whole.


Create your own Critical or Creative topic for this week.

  5 comments for “12th Night and Shakespeare’s Sonnets

  1. May 6, 2017 at 5:14 am

    Reblogged this on keithbracey and commented:
    Shakespeare born 25 miles from #Birmingham in the #WestMidlands of #England is #sublime…..#ShakespeareisSuper

    • May 12, 2017 at 5:48 pm

      I can see that Shakespeare is something of a passion with you: so lucky to be living so close to the Bard’s world!

      • May 13, 2017 at 6:18 pm

        Yes I write my own poems under the pseudonym the #BrummieBard. .. I love Shakespeare and Stratford upon Avon the Bard’s birthplace which I can reach in an hour from my local railway station at Langley Green in the Black Country 4 miles from Birmingham City Centre and 25 miles from Stratford upon Avon. …#Bostin Bard #SuperShakespeare

      • May 15, 2017 at 11:10 pm

        Fabulous to hear that Keith! Lucky Man!

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