To send content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about sending content to .
To send content items to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about sending to your Kindle.
Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
At the conclusion of Twelfth Night, as part of the long-awaited and heavily overdetermined reconciliation scene, comes a revelation that modern audiences would surely find disconcerting if they paid attention to it. Sebastian, in the course of catechizing his disguised twin sister Viola, gives their age at the death of their father as 13 (5.1.237-41). They cannot be much older than this during the course of the play: they are prepubescent, constantly mistaken for each other; Sebastian's voice has not yet changed, and his facial hair has not begun to grow. Even for Shakespeare's audience, their youthfulness would have been striking, an index at the very least to the precociousness of sexuality in Illyria. Indeed, if they are still 13, it means that, though Sebastian and Olivia have by this time married, the husband has not yet even reached the age of consent, which at this period in Shakespeare's England was 14 for men, 12 for women. We find this moment unnoticeable because Sebastian and Viola, in modern productions, are roles for mature actors, not children. Sebastian's combative energy and erotic readiness suggest at the very least advanced adolescence, and would have suggested it to Shakespeare's audience as well: the physiologists of the age placed the onset of active male sexuality at 15 or 16.
The earliest illustration of a Shakespearean subject, and the only one surviving from Shakespeare's lifetime, is a drawing related to Titus Andronicus. (Figure 2) It appears on a single sheet preserved in the collection of the Marquess of Bath at Longleat; it is inscribed with the name of Henry Peacham, presumably the emblem writer and author of The Complete Gentleman, and a date that has been interpreted as either 1595 or (more persuasively) 1614/15. The picture is so well known that to reproduce it yet again would be superfluous were it not for its uniqueness as the sole visual testimony of a spectator contemporary with Shakespeare – this is where any discussion of Shakespearean illustration must begin.
The drawing shows Queen Tamora pleading with Titus for the life of her two sons, who kneel on the right, guarded by Aaron the Moor, as two soldiers watch. These are all characters in the play, and they are certainly performing a scene; but the scene is not in the play – or at least, not in any version that survives. There is a portion of the opening scene that includes all the figures depicted in the drawing, but at this point Aaron is a prisoner along with the two sons, and could not be standing over them with drawn sword. Below the drawing is a dramatic extract. It is this that identifies the drawing as relating to Shakespeare's Titus, but the passage transcribed is not simply a quotation from the play. It combines passages from two separate scenes: an exchange between Tamora and Titus from Act 1 is answered by a speech of Aaron's from Act 5 – both the scene and the text represent a conspectus or epitome of the drama.