10 thoughts on “Twelfth Night by the Globe Theater

  1. Excellent analysis! From what I have read about Elizabethan/Jacobean theater practice, there would have been a desire for splendid costumes, depending on the play’s locale. Some of the costumes would have been hand-me-downs from noble sources, second-hand, refurbished by women working behind the scenes.

  2. This is such a brilliant point! I think what probably happened is that they were SO careful to be accurate to what actual clothes of the era looked like, they lost sight of the fact that theater costumes wouldn’t have looked just like regular clothes. (Or else possibly they did think of it, but it’s a deliberate choice.)

    I think honestly there’s no issue with that, if they’d just said they were doing something close to how the play would’ve been performed in Shakespeare’s time, but not exact. It’s pretty much impossible to get everything EXACTLY as it would’ve been back then anyway, so they should just be honest about the fact that what we’re seeing is similar, but not identical.

  3. I think that’s my braid on mark rylance, I hadn’t seen it before – jenny sent me comps but for the other play, so I didn’t see my own work. (I did get to see the actors dressing room though – the comps are on the balcony right on stage and there are gaps in the floorboards – you can see straight through, we were about two feet from mark rylance when he was giving a speech, so I def would have noticed if he was wearing it then!)

  4. Hmm. Many good points here, but also some I would take issue with. Your assumption that Court masque costumes by Inigo Jones represent what was worn on the Globe stage some years earlier seems to me to be a little of a stretch. Jones’s outfits were made for the super elite, money being little issue (though the costs of masques became an increasing cause of discontent in later decades), and not the same as costumes remade from cast-offs or reused from stock. You may well have a point that the costumes of this production lack some of the pzazz an audience of the time might have expected, but nobody would have expected the fantasy themes Jones was working with except in plays with an avowedly supernatural element, like The Tempest. I do think the black is appropriate as a sign of high status, and the contrast with the Viola/Sebastian outfits is useful.

    Why do you assume such a low level of literacy amongst the audience? While only the upper ranks would have had an extensive education, basic literacy was important for the people of a city which derived the bulk of its living from two main sources – commerce and government.

    Apprentices were normally bound for about seven years, and there are extant documents showing the age at which they started their apprenticeships. It seems highly likely that the lead boy actors were performing until the age of 23-4. I’ve seen work done by some of the academics at the Shakespeare Institute on this, BTW.

    1. Apologies, my intent was not to imply that the level of fantastical whimsy seen in the work of Inigo Jones is representative of what one would have seen for sure on the Globe Stage, but rather as an example of the level of imagination even the Elizabethans/Jacobeans would employ creating fantastical costuming to help tell a story

  5. What an excellent essay. I will.certainly seek out this production. But I can understand that it leaves you wanting more.

    San Antonio’s McNay is a gem of a museum with a Theater Arts section, showing stage and costume designs from 1500. I remember aristocratic entertainments that astound.

    Houston’s Comicpalooza showed me our modern taste for the fantastic. The Cosplayers revealed what can be accomplished with less than princely resources. (The next one is scheduled for July. I can only hope.)

    Pretty boys and handsome young men playing female parts would-be great. But might shock the easily shocked…..

  6. Thank you for this interesting and educational review! I’ll have to watch this filmed version!

    Shakespeare’s plays are a great love of mine. I consider Inigio Jones’ fantastic masques to be early LARPing, and as a LARPer, that makes me enjoy any mentions of his work all the more!

  7. Very interesting essay, especially about the plays being written for the company, and the boy players therein.

    Also, YAY Ruth Goodman! I’ve loved all her programs for BBC (the various Farms, the Victorian Pharmacist, all really nice). She also has a pair of books How to be a Victorian and How to be a Tudor that really go into all the nitty gritty (very gritty) details about what life was really like.

    I also really appreciate how, even though you can tell she enjoys being an experimental historian, she doesn’t shy away from telling you about the bits that sucked, particularly for women.

    There’s one bit in Edwardian Farm where she’s doing some maid work up at the Manor house that has plumbing. “A tap! Oh joy a tap!” – and you realize that it’s not just modern-Ruth speaking, it’s period-Ruth, who has been hauling all her water in buckets this whole time. And there are plenty of things about the past that are fine to leave there.

  8. I loved this production and loved your review. I do have one quibble (and I can be talked out of it, since I’ve been out of the academic world for some time and may be mistaken). You use sketches of masque costumes as an indicator of what Shakespeare’s company may have worn, but as I recall, masques were both far more stylized and FAR more expensive than professional theatre productions. I suspect that, while Shakespeare might have liked to dress his actors that way, he would not have been able to afford it. And costumes had to be reused from production to production. So while I agree that the Twelfth Night costumes were a bit too bland (I found the relentless black and grey off-putting and sorely missed the typical ‘brightening’ of Olivia’s costume when she comes out of mourning), I’m not sure it’s fair to compare them to a Jacobean masque, which really is a different animal. But as I said, I could be talked around.

  9. In that first picture labeled “Sebastian (Johnny Flynn) and Viola (Samuel Barnett),” I think the attribution is mistaken! The actor on the left is Joseph Timms playing Sebastian, and the actor on the right is Samuel Barnett playing Viola. (Sam Barnett played Viola when the play came to New York but Sebastian at the Globe; I think this is a picture from New York, not London.)

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