Historicist and Presentist Interpretation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night


  • Sharif Mohammad Shahidullah Department of English Literary Studies International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) Author




Historicism; Presentism; Twelfth Night; Transvestism; Gender; Renaissance; Marriage; Feminism


Historicism and Presentism are two recent, mostly discussed phenomena in the
ethos of Shakespearean studies. While historicists like Stephen Greenblatt argues
that historicism pursues historical aspects to explain a text and keeps away presentday
political, social and cultural affairs to avoid the misunderstanding of it, the
presentists like Terence Hawkes advocates that Presentism offers an unending
dialogue between present and past, which is deeply rooted to the present. In
addition, Presentism is the re-evaluation of the historical facts upon which our early
modern understanding depends. Therefore, Presentism could be an excellent idea
to interpret the appropriacy of early modern literature, especially Shakespeare’s
oeuvre. This paper, however, elucidates Twelfth Night, one of Shakespeare’s
masterpieces, from both historicist and presentist points of view, which looks
especially at the way Shakespeare views gender while applying these both
approaches. This article also clarifies the reasons for selecting this text for
explicating Shakespeare from these two approaches. Finally, this study advocates
for combining these two approaches, which might offer a better way to understand
Shakespeare’s works and to make him more relevant today.




How to Cite

Sharif Mohammad Shahidullah. (2019). Historicist and Presentist Interpretation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. University of Chitral Journal of Linguistics and Literature, 3(I), 66-78. https://doi.org/10.33195/vcj2jf83

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