Reading Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night through the Lens of Ecocriticism

By Sumana Biswas.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

This study concentrates upon an ecocritical analysis of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (1600) wherein an attempt has been made not only to ascertain the relationship between the characters and Nature but also to evaluate, whether civilization’s roles conform to the principles of ecology in order to maintain a harmonic and balanced eco-human relationship. It scrutinizes ecocritically, relationship between human culture and the environment. Civilization’s anthropocentric activities against ecology and woman have been vividly pictured in the play. It has illustrated the impact of environment upon the characters and vice-versa in the plays. The study equally explicates how the characters of the play personify both natural and social environment. The intertwined identity, role and position of women and Nature have been highlighted. It has critically examined not only how the play places forward the rhythms of the dynamic Nature in the context of ever changing society and the inconsistent human mind, but also how they reflect both elevated and distorted symbolic association of humans and Nature. The study also illustrates how the undertaken play has critiqued civilization’s indiscriminate acquisitiveness of the material world for the purpose of satisfying the self-ego, glamour, selfishness and status along with its pride of pseudo-supremacy that makes it incognizant of the real power and the essence of enigmatic Nature. The ecocritical survey of Twelfth Night infers that each human character plays a definite set of roles, either eco-affable, or ecocidal or eco-dualistic depending upon the intensity of their eco-awareness. The play has highlighted human beings as elements of the grand set of ecosystem/Nature playing different roles for and against ecological norms. Many times their status has remained enlaced with that of Nature and the non-human entities as far as their impoverishment, exploitation, marginalization, abrogation, annihilation, inferiorisation and subjugation are concerned as an outcome of negative discrimination practiced on the basis of gender, class, race, colour, descent and other social barriers, the product of narrow/conservative patriarchal capitalistic doctrines against ecological principles. The ecocritical pursuit, here, projects apart from Nature’s significance in human lives, the totalitarian civilization’s propensity to exploit and deplete Nature and the ‘weak others’ inordinately with lack/paucity of interest or initiatives for their rehabilitation. The transformation of eco-antagonism into eco-friendliness and the dismantlement of anthropocentrism under the forces of Nature are also experienced. It can be deduced that Nature has joy and brightness, which happen to be integral elements that flourish and revive in due course making possible the rectifications and happy restorations.

Keywords: Twelfth Night, Ecocritical Pursuit

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 4, Issue 8, pp.1-14. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.233MB).

Sumana Biswas

Research Scholar, Department of English, Rani Durgavati University, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, India

Sumana Biswas has done her M.A. and M.Phil in English Literature from Rani Durgavati Vishwavidalaya, Jabalpur, M.P., India. She has defended her PhD (English) thesis titled Ecocritical Evaluation of Shakespeare’s Comedies and Tragedies very recently from the same University. At present she has six journal & anthology publications and nine conference papers to her credit. Her fields of interest are Shakespeare, British Renaissance Literature, Victorian Literature, Indian Literature, Feminism, Eco-feminism, Ecocriticism and Post colonialism.

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