Twelfth Night as a Base for She’s the Man Novel
“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564 and wrote some of the world’s most favorite plays. Many of William Shakespeare’s plays have been made into movies, whether it is the exact copy of the play or a parody or rendition of the play. The famous movie, She’s the Man, staring the well-known actress Amanda Bynes, was actually based off of William Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night. Twelfth Night is one of the many plays Shakespeare wrote that was modernized into a beloved movie today.
In She’s the Man, Viola takes the role of her twin brother, Sebastian who is away traveling in London. She does this to prove that girls can play soccer just as well as guys. Her attempt to prove that females are just as good as males provides many gender references in the movie. One example of this is when Sebastian’s soccer coach compares Viola to her twin brother Sebastian and says, “girls can’t play soccer.” After that Viola’s mother encourages Viola to become a debutante. A debutante is a young upper class woman who begins to go to upper class parties so she can be seen by upper class men and maybe future employers. On the other hand, in the play Twelfth Night,
Shakespeare’s characters disguise themselves, both in the play and modern interpretation, as a means to get closer to other characters. In the play, Viola disguises herself as a man named Cesario while Olivia goes to work in the house of Duke Orsino. She has her twin brother in mind when disguising herself but she does not Through cross dressing and an insane amount of deception, a love triangle forms between Olivia, Viola, and the Duke. Similarly, in the film Viola disguises herself as her twin brother Sebastian while Olivia happens to be Sebastian’s lab partner in school and ends up developing a crush on him due to his “sensitivity.” Through the same tactics of cross dressing and deception, another love triangle forms in the movie when Viola starts to fall in love with Duke and Olivia falls in love with fake Sebastian.
Both Viola’s in Twelfth Night and She’s the Man have similar yet very different motives behind them impersonating a man. In the film, Viola (Bynes) wants to impersonate her brother to prove to everyone that girls can play soccer just as well as guys. The girls’ soccer program was being shut down and the school that she was attending did not allow coed sports so in order to play with the guys she would have to be one of the guys. In the film, Viola’s motive to disguise herself is exclusively an ambitious motive to prove herself. In contrast, Twelfth Night’s Viola chooses to disguise herself in order to not only protect her true identity which is that she is the only survivor of her wealthy family, but also to ensure that she would be given the same rights as a man would have, in and out of the workforce. The quote below explains Viola’s motive of self-protection.
VIOLA: “O that I served that lady
And might not be delivered to the world,
Till I had made mine own occasion mellow,
What my estate is!” (I.ii.43-46)
One major similarity and difference is the “good deed” that is done by one of the characters. In Twelfth Night Viola services Duke Orsino by helping him try to court Olivia. Similarly, in She’s the Man Viola does try to help Duke court Olivia but Duke does Viola (Bynes) by training her in soccer so that she can have the potential and skills to be able to play on against the men’s soccer team. Besides being connected very closely, there are many small references to Twelfth Night in She’s the Man. When Viola, disguised as her twin brother Sebastian, walks through the Illyria Prep campus for the first time she passes a bulletin board that has a poster for the school’s production of What You Will, which just happens to be another name for Twelfth Night. The name “Illyria” comes from the play and is known for its romantic atmosphere and is located near todays modern Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Albania, Croatia, and Montenegro. Another example is the after school hangout of Illyria Prep campus which is a pizza parlor called Cecario’s. In Twelfth Night, Cesario is the name of Viola’s alias in Twelfth Night.
“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” This is the most famous lines in both the play and movie version. In She’s the Man, Duke delivers these lines to the soccer team just like in the play, when Malvolio reads them aloud from a letter. In the film, Duke says, “It’s just like what Coach says before every game: Be not afraid of greatness, some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. I think our best chance to be great here today, is to have you play. She’s the Man loses much of the intended tragic impact that was very much present in the play Twelfth Night. Shakespeare had one main theme when writing Twelfth Night. Love and death were very present in Twelfth Night when Malvolio says that he is open to love when in reality he is scared of any mutual love relationship. For him, it is easier to send middle men to woo her only because it flatters him to feel like he loves her more than she loves him which can be very confusing because why would you want to love someone who does not love you as much as you love her. Consequently, in She’s the Man, there is no similarity with the scripts except the fact that the writers kept the basic plot of the play.
In comparison with Twelfth Night, She’s the Man is an accurate representation of the plot for a modern day interpretation of the original play. Both Viola’s have equally important motives for disguising themselves and Viola’s motive in the film does a good job of preserving the play’s original motive. She’s the Man is an excellent modern interpretation of Shakespeare’s original play Twelfth Night. Even though the scenarios in which the characters are put into are different, the modern movie adaptation does a phenomenal job of preserving Shakespeare’s main plot and themes.
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