This summer's Shakespeare on the Common performance of Twelfth Night brings Judith Klau back to the South End library to continue her annual tradition of offering her insights on the festival's starred Bard play. The South End resident and former chair of the English Department at the Groton School will be at the branch on Tuesday night at 6:30 PM. Twelfth Night is being performed through Sunday, August 10 at the Parkman Bandstand on the Boston Common, Tuesday through Saturday at 8 PM, Sunday at 7 PM, and is free to all. Written in the early 17th century and set on the Balkan coast of the Adriatic Sea, the comedy's plot centers on twins, Viola and Sebastian, who are separated in a shipwreck. A countess, Olivia, falls in love with Viola, who is disguised as a boy. Sebastian, his shipwrecked survival unbeknownst to sister Viola, becomes enamored of the countess, as well. Shakespeare borrowed the story line of siblings who look alike and are mistaken for each other when they disguise themselves from a similar story by the 16th-century English author Barnabe Rich.
"In my mind, I call Twelfth Night 'the wacky play,'" said Klau, "but that's only when I ignore the darker elements that lie beneath the surface of its comic madness. I think it's the most laugh-out-loud of Shakespeare's comedies, and the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company takes complete advantage of that with splendid, sensitive casting, especially of Malvolio (the countess's attendant), Olivia and Viola." Klau plans to address the significance of the characters' names, as well as the number of coincidences that occur when a play has a combination of twins, assumed and real dead brothers, and three unlikely suitors of the same woman.
Klau said she fell in love with Shakespeare in high school, but forgot about him until she was lucky enough to spend time at the Folger Shakespeare Library as an NEH grant-recipient. "I was reinforced in my belief that he is incomparable, that his works are endlessly fascinating, and that if I tried hard enough I could make some sense out of his plays."
The South End library is fully handicapped accessible. Judith Klau's Shakespeare talk is free. Refreshments will be served.