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For four centuries Twelfth Night has inspired theatre directors and performers: some have found class war; some have seen Malvolio as a tragic hero; some have found a passive Viola and others have found an action woman. Whether a production's emphasis is on gender bending, festivity, or trying to reinvent Shakespeare as Chekhov, the sheer variety of Twelfth Nights on offer over the centuries attests to the play's power as a stimulus to theatrical creativity. The dazzling range of the Twelfth Nights considered here includes the productively wayward as well as the conventionally respectable, productions which play to the contemporary market as well as those that seek to flout tradition. This indispensable stage history covers changing fashions in the fortunes of Twelfth Night, and includes a survey of a wide variety of theatrical interpretations of the play in the English-speaking world.
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