I’ve never seen a production of Twelfth Night but in reading it I imagined Alan Rickman in the part of Malvolio and found this piece of casting to be impossible to dismiss from my mind.
Mal. By my life, this is my lady’s hand: these be her very C’s, her U’s, and her T’s; and thus makes she her great P’s.
Apart from its being the pretext for the stupidest and dirtiest joke I’ve yet come across in Shakespeare, I was surprised to find that the letter with which Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Maria trick Malvolio is the source of “some are born to greatness, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.”
Quite a few of the famous quotes are undercut when read in their proper context. “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” and “To thine own self be true” are that old bore Polonius’ advice to his son, and “All the world’s a stage” comes from the amusingly emo Jaques in As You Like It, not long after the Duke and his pals have been gently guying him for his preposterous moralising over a wounded deer. I fancy that he could be the nearest thing Shakespeare gives us to a self-portrait, but, even if this is so, it’s a rather wry and self-mocking portrait.
Twelfth Night has one of the earliest examples of Lampshade Hanging:
Sir Toby. Is’t possible?
Fabian. If this were play’d upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.