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John Boydell

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Image of Twelfth Night, Act 2, Scene 3

John Boydell
English, 1719–1804
Josiah Boydell (aka Joshua Boydell)
English, 1752–1817
James Fittler
English, 1758–1835
after William Hamilton
English, 1751–1801

Twelfth Night, Act 2, Scene 3

about 1804
From Boydell's Graphic Illustrations of the Dramatic Works of Shakespearefrom Boydells’ Graphic Illustrations of the Dramatic Works of Shakespeare

Object Type: Print
10 5/16 x 6 7/16 in. (26 x 16 cm)
Medium and Support: Engraving on paper
Accession Number: 2016.0008.0007

Credit Line: Gift of Donald A. Winer, by exchange

In 1786, a successful London publisher, alderman John Boydell, conceived of a gallery of art devoted to scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. Named for its founder, the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery was one of the first large-scale commercial endeavors intended to promote British literature and artists both in Great Britain as well as throughout the European continent. He commissioned over 167 paintings of scenes from Shakespeare’s plays and produced engravings based on these paintings. In creating the engravings, John Boydell partnered with his son, Josiah, whose name appears after his father’s in the list above. The third name is that of the engraver, and the fourth is that of the painter who created the original composition in oils. The role of the engraver was to transfer the painter’s composition onto plates for printing.

About this scene:
Crossdressing, tricksters, alcohol, and yellow stockings, anyone? That’s surefire comedy, as the chief instigator of raucousness, Sir Toby, proclaims here to his drinking buddy and victim Sir Andrew before they plot revenge on the severe steward, Malvolio. Their trick? Make him believe his employer, the countess Olivia, loves him.

She doesn’t—and won’t, because the main plot characters are in a love triangle fed by shipwrecked, grief-stricken Viola’s decision to dress like her drowned brother for safety. So she falls hopelessly in love with her new boss, the duke, who sends her to woo his unresponsive beloved Olivia, who promptly falls in love with this new “guy.”

Meanwhile, the subplot just wants to expose its dupes, Sir Andrew and Malvolio, who now acts on his secret desire to be count. Malvolio is publicly shamed and Sir Andrew’s trust shattered, though weddings ensue once the not-drowned twin brother lands in Illyria.
-Susan Willis, dramaturg, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, September 28, 2020

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