Passion and Control in Shakespeare's
By Ann Richards and Carol McCluer
In The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known
#212, titled “All the Arts,” Eli Siegel
Feeling and craft are the greatest friends in all
the arts; and these correspond to passion and control…
Every art asks care from the person working in the
art; and every art also asks for adequate feeling
We're studying how acting has these opposites again
and again; and Aesthetic Realism is teaching us this
new idea: that the answers to the questions people have
everywhere daily are in the structure of the art we
love.“ What should I be passionate about, if anything?”
“Am I too cold, do I have enough feeling?”
and “Why do I feel I’m all over the place,
and don’t have control of my emotions?”
are questions that torment women and men all over the
We studied a scene from Shakespeare’s Twelfth
Night, or What You Will; and through a lecture
Eli Siegel gave on this play, we learned about ourselves
and other people as we looked at two women--Viola and
Olivia. We had the thrill of seeing how opposites in
the drama tell us about ourselves.
Twelfth Night has been called Shakespeare’s
Farewell to Comedy and was written about 1600. It is
wild and subtle, surprising and right, passionate and
controlled. The story involves three sets of characters
who intermingle as in a mad, strange, happy dance.
In his lecture on the play, Eli Siegel said:
This play can be said to be a lot about self-love
trying to be love.
There is Orsino, Duke of Illyria who thinks he is
in love with Olivia. Olivia has shut her doors on society.
She is in a self-proclaimed seven-year mourning over
her brother’s death. Then there is Viola. She
has been shipwrecked on the shores of Illyria--where
all this takes place, by the way--and she is disguised
as a boy named Cesario. She falls in love with Orsino;
but not knowing she is a woman, Orsino engages Viola
as his page, and sends her to woo Olivia for him. What
a situation! There is enough feeling in all these people
to make one dizzy; but Shakespeare controls it all.
The scene we are studying is Act I, Scene V, in which
Viola, as Cesario, the boy page, is to deliver Orsino’s
declaration of love to Olivia. The scene is an intricate
mingling of passion and control. Viola is controlling
her own passion for Orsino, and hiding her true identity.
Olivia’s passion is all for herself; she is in
a fight between boredom and interest, a bad kind of
control and passion.
Olivia is dressed in black, with a veil over her head.
She speaks about her body as though it were separate
from herself. She shows how intensely a person can feel
this world does not deserve her passion; and her control
is really contempt:
Viola. Good madam, let me see your face.
Olivia. Look you, sir. Such a one I was this present.
I, Ann Richards, have been studying the Olivia tendency
in myself since my first Aesthetic Realism consultation,
to which I wore black. I said my emotions had control
over me: I did not have control over them. My consultants
asked me: “What is the emotion that you are most
against? I said, “I get very sad. I can cry at
the drop of a hat.” And they asked, “Do
you in any way treasure your sadness? Do you think it’s
charming? Do you think it makes you more sensitive than
Aesthetic Realism consultations teach a person how
opposites can be in a beautiful relation in life. Hearing
Aesthetic Realism criticism has enabled me to see where
I was largely the source of my own pain and, to my amazement,
I have been able to laugh at myself. My gratitude to
Eli Siegel and my consultants for the changes in my
life grows every day.
In the lecture on Twelfth Night, Mr. Siegel
says of Viola:
Viola represents energy; energy likewise with gentleness.
Energy with gentleness is another way of saying passionate
and controlled. Mr. Siegel continues:
Viola represents the outside world coming from the
water to stir up both Orsino and Olivia. She represents
that third something.
I, Carol McCluer, love the character of Viola and feel
it is an honor to try to give form to her. She stands
for the world as criticism and encouragement. It is
she, disguised as the young man, Cesario, who criticizes
Olivia’s containment and bad control; she tells
it to her straight, and for the first time, Olivia feels
actress known for her portrayal of Viola is Julia Marlowe,
of early 20th century America. She was also known for
her portrayal of Rosalind, another Shakespearean heroine
who disguises herself as a boy in order to both hide
and show her passion. Reading a biography of her and
reviews of her performances has had a large effect on
my study of the character. I think her interpretation
of Viola as deeply feminine, yet more of an idea than
a human being of flesh and blood, has affected actresses
since then; and I know Julia Marlowe would have loved
what Eli Siegel said about this role:
Shakespeare uses people as ideas and ideas as people.
Even though Orsino, whom Viola loves, has sent her
to woo Olivia for him, Viola does not have ill will
for Olivia. Instead, she feels passionately that if
Olivia is the woman who can strengthen Orsino, that
should be. Viola pities the weakness in Olivia and criticizes
her roundly. She says, “I see you what you are;
you are too proud.” She also sees a beautiful
possibility in Olivia which affects Olivia deeply, but
not in the way Viola expected. The fact is, Olivia falls
in love with Viola! Mr. Siegel explains the sudden passion
of Olivia, when he says:
If one thinks that the first time Olivia sees Viola
she’s going to be so moved that she has to send
after Viola and do this business with the ring--of
course, that’s unbelievable. Ibsen would never
do it. It’s unbelievable. But if you see Viola
as a sudden idea, a sudden awareness, then it is beautiful,
like a sudden change of music.
In Viola, Olivia sees a world worth her passion.
It is Viola whom Eli Siegel quotes in his essay The
Ordinary Doom as showing the desire in people to
be hidden and not known. Viola is beautiful because
she comes to see this hiddenness as a mistake, and later
in the play, she says: “Disguise, I see thou art
a wickedness.” The trouble in my life has been
that most of the time I felt, “Disguise, thou
art wonderful!” I was asked kind and critical questions
in my first consultation, such as: “Do
you think you have a question about how much you want
to show yourself as such?”
Con: You smile. Do you also cry? Are your smiles and
tears in the same world or different?
Con: Do you feel you’ve fooled people?
Through studying Aesthetic Realism, we've
been able to change. In The Right Of #212,
Mr. Siegel writes:
Every person, too, is a constant mingling of life
unshaped and of life possibly shaped. A person is
an art problem, cherished and a little feared by himself.
We love studying acting from the Aesthetic Realism
point of view, and learning about the relation of drama