My Visit to a Twelfth Night Party!

I can think of no better wrapup to my play of the month “Twelfth Night,” than by reporting on my visit to an actual Twelfth night Party, presented by the Society For Creative Anachronism.

What’s a Twelfth Night Party?

If you took my class on Shakespearean Christmas traditions or read my blog posts, you know that, back in Shakespeare’s day, Twelfth Night was a party to end the Christmas season. It was presided over by a Lord of Misrule, who would lead people in games and songs. The party would also have a Twelfth Night Cake with a bean in the center. If you found the bean, you’d have good luck for the year! So I was pleased to come to a real-life Twelfth Night party and see these traditions come to life!

What is the society for Creative anachronism?

The short answer is- it’s LARPING for history nerds. Rather than creating a D&D persona and then getting arms and armor to play-fight in the backyard, SCA members create personas based on real medieval history, make or buy real historical arms and armor, (or arts and crafts as the case may be) and spend years of their lives studying and perfecting their immersion in that character’s life. SCA-ers learn how to fight with swords, daggers, spears, etc, how to sing medieval songs, medieval dances, and many other medieval ‘mysteries,’ which in this case means arts, crafts, and professions.

The Shire of Owlsherst

Owlsherst is the SCA’s local chapter in York PA. They have a number of dedicated members who specialize in textiles to rapier-dagger fighting. I’ve posted some videos of their fighting demonstrations on Youtube and Tiktok and their archery master has his own Tiktok channel. They hosted this year’s Twelfth Nigh party and have many other events throughout the year. For more information on this chapter, go to https://owlsherst.eastkingdom.org/

My reaction

Every SCA event is a great way to celebrate people who are passionate about history and have talents for arts and crafts. Everything from the tapestries to the to the food, to the adorable owl toys, was made by hand by these dedicated people (most of whom brought their own medieval costumes). More members were doing live demonstrations of rapier/ dagger fights, binding books in cow leather, and singing medieval Christmas songs. I was inspired by everyone’s dedication and hard work to put this together. I also wonder if this is how Shakespeare himself felt when, as a child, he went to sheep shearing fairs and saw his friends and fellow artisans put on amateur bible plays on medieval pageant wagons.

That said…

I should warn you that, like a lot of historical reenacting societies like Civil War reenactors, etc, this society is more aimed at hardcore history nerds, than anyone else. This isn’t Medieval Times or a big-budget renaissance fair which is aimed at children and casual fun seekers. As such, it wasn’t really family-friendly. There aren’t many activities for kids and many of the arts and crafts are too delicate for toddlers and young kids. Also, this event isn’t particularly immersive or organized. People mostly just mingled, ate, and watched the various demonstrations. Keep in mind, this is just one chapter and just one event, which means your experience may vary. Nevertheless, because of the organization’s amateur historical nature, I would caution you to manage your expectations. Like I said before, this isn’t some big-budget Disney theme-park ride, but it is a chance for hardcore history nerds to get together, share their knowledge, and celebrate the traditions of a bygone era. If that’s your thing, I highly recommend it!

Happy Twelfth Day of Christmas Everyone!

Hello everyone! I’m back from break and happy to celebrate one of my favorite holidays with you- the one that gave its name to one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies- Twelfth Night

How to throw a Twelfth Night Party

How To Throw A Twelfth Night Party

How to Make a Twelfth Night Cake

Intro to Twelfth Night (THe play)

I’ve been in this play three times and I’m continually struck by how fun, romantic, and progressive it is. It raises questions about gender roles, social norms, bullying, and even catfishing and heteronormativity! It’s a fascinating and thought-provoking play and it’s my favorite of Shakespeare’s comedies!

Shakespeare’s early comedies are about young love, infatuation, and being ‘madly in love’ (sometimes literally). His middle plays are about mature relationships between men and women and the need for commitment. I would argue that Twelfth Night, (and possibly Much Ado About Nothing), are the best examples of Shakespeare telling meaningful stories about romantic relationships.

Past Posts on “Twelfth Night”

  1. Play of the Month: Twelfth Night
  2. The Fashion Is the Fashion: Twelfth Night
  3. Crafting a Character: Malvolio
  4. Exquisite Artwork from Twelfth Night

Would you like to know more? Take a class!

In honor of “Twelfth Night,” I’ve created a coupon for my course on Shakespeare’s comedies from now till January 31st: Get $10 off my class “Shakespeare’s Comic Plays” with coupon code HTHESYTIT110 until Jan 31, 2023. Get started at https://outschool.com/classes/shakespeares-comic-plays-868BR5hg and enter the coupon code at checkout.

To finish I wanted to give you a complete production of Twelfth Night for your viewing pleasure, but I can’t decide which one, so I will post a bunch today! 

1. 1996 TV movie starring Geoffrey Rush (Pirates of the Caribbean)

2.1996 Thames TV directed by Kenneth Branaugh 

Happy New Year From The Shakespearean Student

Thanks to all my longtime readers, this website has had its best year ever! Here’s to more fun, information, and insight in 2023.

Stats for the 2022 year on Shakespearean Student.

As a New Years gift, from now until January 31st, you can get $10 off my class “An Interactive Guide to Shakespeare’s London” with coupon code HTHESYTIT110 until Jan 31, 2023. Get started at https://outschool.com/classes/an-interactive-guide-to-shakespeares-london-E6KqeBQQ and enter the coupon code at checkout.

Keep calm and Podcast on: my 2022 wrapup

Thanks to everyone who’s been listening to my podcast over the last two years. I hope to make much more content and continue to write, talk, and teach about Shakespeare for a long time to come. Thanks for a good 2022, and here’s hoping for an even better 2023!

Happy Birthday Catharine of Aragon!

Since this month I’m talking about Henry VIII, I thought I’d celebrate his first wife, widely considered a model of duty, fortitude, and power! Below is a video about Catherine (who spelled her name with a K and a C by the way).

The Life Of Catherine Of Aragon

Catherine’s signed command to get armor made for her upcoming engagement with the Scots at the Battle of Flodden (1513).
Catherine’s grave at Peterborough Cathedral.

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Catherine-of-Aragon

Shakespeare’s Katherine

Queen KatharineSir, I desire you do me right and justice;
And to bestow your pity on me: for1370
I am a most poor woman, and a stranger,
Born out of your dominions; having here
No judge indifferent, nor no more assurance
Of equal friendship and proceeding. Alas, sir,
In what have I offended you? what cause1375
Hath my behavior given to your displeasure,
That thus you should proceed to put me off,
And take your good grace from me? 

Henry VIII, Act II, Scene iv.

Shakespeare treats Katherine as a living saint- kind, pious, and devoted to her husband, yet accutely aware of the manipulations of Cardinal Woolsey, and the lack of justice in her divorce trial. Just like in real life, Catherine leaves the trial and appeals to the Pope himself!

In her final scene, Katherine is dying on the island of Ely, having lost her crown, her husband, and her home. She is nonetheless still beloved by all in this world and the next. Shakespeare writes a dream sequence for Katherine, where she is visited by angels holding palm branches, signifying that Catherine will be welcomed into Heaven.

[The vision. Enter, solemnly tripping one after]
another, six personages, clad in white robes,
wearing on their heads garlands of bays, and golden
vizards on their faces; branches of bays or palm in
their hands. They first congee unto her, then
dance; and, at certain changes, the first two hold
a spare garland over her head; at which the other
four make reverent curtsies; then the two that held
the garland deliver the same to the other next two,
who observe the same order in their changes, and
holding the garland over her head: which done,
they deliver the same garland to the last two, who
likewise observe the same order: at which, as it
were by inspiration, Katherine makes in her sleep signs
of rejoicing, and holdeth up her hands to heaven:
and so in their dancing vanish, carrying the
garland with them. The music continues]- Stage Direction, Act IV, Scene ii.

References:

Open Source Shakespeare: “Henry VIII”

https://royalarmouries.org/stories/queen-katherine-of-aragon/

https://www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/history-and-stories/katherine-of-aragon/#gs.l0hcd8