Students told they can walk out of ‘upsetting’ lectures on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night… …and wait till you hear what Felicity Kendal thinks of THAT!
- The University of Wales Trinity Saint David issued the directive for many plays
- Last night some of the country’s finest Shakespearean actors hit out at the move
With its cross-dressing heroine and story of mistaken identity, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night has been delighting audiences for four centuries.
But the romantic comedy is now the subject of a so-called ‘content warning’ by a university, which has given students permission to walk out of lectures on the play if they find its romantic entanglements detrimental to their ‘wellbeing’.
The University of Wales Trinity Saint David issued the directive for an English degree course module that includes Twelfth Night, as well as three other plays by the Bard.
Last night some of the country’s finest Shakespearean actors hit out at the move.
Good Life star Felicity Kendal, who played Viola in the BBC’s acclaimed 1980 adaptation of Twelfth Night, said: ‘This sort of thing is totally absurd.
PICTURED: Felicity Kendal playing Viola in the BBC’s acclaimed 1980 adaptation of Twelfth Night
Felicity said children should not be deterred from engaging with these works
‘Great art is meant to challenge our senses, our feelings and our prejudices… We should not be deterring students from engaging with these works.’
Dame Janet Suzman, who has starred in productions of Antony And Cleopatra, The Merchant Of Venice and Love’s Labour’s Lost, also said she had no time for what she described as ‘piffle’.
The university’s warning, a copy of which has been obtained by this newspaper under Freedom of Information laws, allows undergraduates studying Error and Sweet Violence: Shakespeare and Renaissance Comedy and Tragedy ‘to leave the class, interrupt their activity or take any measure necessary to take care of their wellbeing without the need for explanation or justification’ if they are confronted by content they consider upsetting.
In addition to Twelfth Night the warning also covers the Shakespeare plays Othello, Measure For Measure and Coriolanus, as well as Doctor Faustus and Edward II, both by Christopher Marlowe.
Twelfth Night, which is believed to have been written between 1601 and 1602, tells the story of twins Viola and Sebastian, who become separated following a shipwreck.
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Fearing that Sebastian has drowned, Viola decides that her only chance of survival is to disguise herself as a man called Cesario.
Her disguise is a success, but chaos ensues when she finds herself falling in love with her new employer, Duke Orsino.
The situation is complicated further when the Countess Olivia, the object of the Duke’s affections, falls in love with Cesario. Last night, Dame Janet added: ‘If some deluded members of the human race wish to be immersed in a Barbie-safe world of pinkness and sugar, by all means stay there but they must never choose to study great literature.
‘Heavens! They might be in danger of widening their horizons.’
Succession star Dame Harriet Walter, who played Viola in the RSC’s 1987 production of the play, said: ‘The emphasis on the potential upset caused by these plays over the probable uplift, mind-expansion and inspiring humanity of Shakespeare’s language is worrying.’
Twelfth Night, which was heavily referenced in the 1998 Oscar-winning film Shakespeare In Love, has always been popular with children and young teenagers.
The University of Wales Trinity Saint David did not respond to requests for comment.
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