YMMV / Twelfth Night

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Just pick up two different editions and read any introductions. It's Shakespeare. Come on.
    • Feste gets a lot of this. His generally witty lines leave the majority of viewers genuinely amused and enjoying him as comic relief, but his somewhat bittersweet closing song ("the rain, it raineth every day" - see The Cover Changes the Meaning, on the main page) make others view him as a subtly tragic Sad Clown. Finally, the ludicrous extent of his Disproportionate Retribution (again, see the main page) makes others argue he is a Monster Clown with total sociopathy, willing to unmake any character as thoroughly as he did poor Malvolio if given half a chance to get away with it.
    • Directing a production of Twelfth Night takes on an extra dimension if you're familiar with Alan Gordon's excellent Fools' Guild mysteries, to whit: Feste is a secret agent, engineered the twins' "shipwreck" in order to stabalise the political situation in Illyria, and falls in love with Viola to the extent that after his assignment's success, he spends a lot of the rest of his life trying to drink away the heartache. Oh, and Malvolio is apparently working for Saladin. Introducing these concepts to the actors playing these roles doesn't remotely translate to the audience, but is a hell of a lot of fun.
    • The respective sexual identities of Orsino, Olivia, and Viola are very up in the air, considering that Orsino falls in love with his page "boy" and Olivia falls in love with a woman that she thinks is a eunuch. And unlike Rosalind in As You Like It, once outed Viola is never seen again on-stage in her woman's weeds (although modern productions may have her come out in a dress for the curtain call).
    • Malvolio could be cast or played as being Olivia's own age, or an older but still handsome fellow, or as a man way past his prime but still daydreaming that the Countess will fall for him.
    • Some productions imply that Feste knows Viola is actually a girl, and uses lines such as - "Now Jove, in his next commodity of hair, send thee a beard" - in order to tease and bait her. (They did this in the 1996 film, although Feste had an unfair advantage there, since he saw the survivors of the shipwreck getting washed up on the shore.)
    • You could make a case for Viola being trans or nonbinary.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: More cynical eyes can view the ending as this. Yes, Viola and Orsino are (probably) happy, all well and good, but what about everyone else? Consider:
    • Olivia's married to Sebastian simply because she mistook him for his cross-dressing sister, who's the one she actually fell in love with,
    • Sir Toby has a serious head wound and might well be cast out by Olivia for everything that he's done to Malvolio; same for Maria on that last part. It seems they may live out the phrase "Marry in haste, repent at leisure."
    • Sir Andrew's been violently rejected by someone he honestly believed was his friend and trying to help him,
    • We're never told what's going to happen to Antonio, who only got caught because he loved Sebastian so much (in the 1996 version Orsino frees him, but he goes away on his own, bereft)
    • Do we really need to elaborate on Malvolio?
    • And Feste even sings a melancholy song about the rain raining every day. Hardly cheerful stuff.
  • Ho Yay: Some more Freudian interpretations of the play suggest it's actually intended to be a major theme. It's particularly blazing between Antonio and Sebastian.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Malvolio, hands down. Even the characters admit they went too far in humiliating him.
  • Les Yay: Viola and Olivia. Granted, Olivia doesn't know Viola's a woman, but still. A few of Viola's lines could imply she has feelings for Olivia as well — and she, unlike Olivia, knows perfectly well that they're both women.
  • Narm: Critics have pointed out that in Viola and Sebastian's reunion scene, the whole dialogue of "My father had a mole upon his brow" feels really artificial and disrupts what is otherwise a very honest scene.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Malvolio's pledge of vengeance at the end is a great Sequel Hook. One wonders why Shakespeare didn't run with it?
    • Well, he might have. We lost a few of his works, but it is odd there are no rumors of a What You Won't or a Thirteenth Night, or something.
  • The Woobie:
    • Antonio, arguably. His love for Sebastian gets him arrested, and in the end, he is left alone as Sebastian marries Olivia.
    • Viola could also be seen is this. The poor girl ends up shipwrecked, her beloved brother presumed dead, and ends up going undercover just to get a job. Then she falls in love with her employer, who thinks she's a man, and is in love with someone else. Still, she helps him woo his beloved, because she wants him to be happy, even if it's not with her. Then his beloved falls in love with her, and because of all the Mistaken Identity nonsense, he ends up thinking Viola deliberately stole her away. Luckily, this is a comedy, not a tragedy, so everything turns out okay for her; she winds up marrying the guy she loves and her brother turns out to be alright. But she had a hell of a time before the curtain falls!
    • Olivia, too. Her father and brother are both dead, and she's deeply in mourning, her only source of amusement coming from Feste and Maria. Despite her grieving for her brother, Orsino and Andrew will not leave her alone. Then, she meets a nice "guy" who she becomes attracted to, and decides to open her heart again — not knowing the guy is a girl that's in love with someone else. Seriously, no wonder she was so grouchy at the start of the story! Again, though, everything turns out okay.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/YMMV/TwelfthNight