Article Title

Antonio’s (Happy) Ending: Queer Closure in All-Male Twelfth Night


Cross-gender casting in Shakespeare’s plays on the contemporary stage has the ability to disrupt conventional expectations in a number of ways. Especially in the instance of romantic comedies, which generic convention proscribes begin with homosocial pairs and end with heterosexual marriages, seeing same-sex couples as part of wedding celebrations is powerful politically, socially, and artistically. However, in these productions, what happens to characters who manifest homoerotic attraction at the beginning of plays, yet remain separate from the heterosexual couplings that end such comedies?

In the advent of feminism, queer theory, and the marriage equality movement, scholars of early modern sexuality have become more open to the idea that heterosexual marriage is not always the inevitable result in Shakespearean comedy. My paper examines productions of Twelfth Night that in other respects might be considered queer (or at least queer-friendly) with all-male casts. We may perhaps expect these productions—by Shakespeare’s Globe (Tim Carroll, 2002), Cheek by Jowl (Declan Donnellan, 2003), and Propeller (Edward Hall, 2006)—to be more open to multivalent erotic possibilities, especially in that they present coupling, engagements, and even weddings of same-sex actors, and yet this is not necessarily the case. In examining the ways post-modern theatre companies stage Twelfth Night’s comedic endings, and specifically the treatment of the character Antonio, I hope to question the privilege of marriage in comedy, to open a dialogue between early modern scholars and theatre practitioners, and to reconceptualize those “irreconcilable” queer outsiders that tend to stand alone as the curtain falls.

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