With its cross-dressing heroine and story of mistaken identity, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night has been delighting audiences for four centuries.
But the romantic comedy is now the subject of a so-called ‘content warning’ by a university, which has given students permission to walk out of lectures on the play if they find its romantic entanglements detrimental to their ‘wellbeing’.
The University of Wales Trinity Saint David issued the directive for an English degree course module that includes Twelfth Night, as well as three other plays by the Bard.
Last night some of the country’s finest Shakespearean actors hit out at the move.
Good Life star Felicity Kendal, who played Viola in the BBC’s acclaimed 1980 adaptation of Twelfth Night, said: ‘This sort of thing is totally absurd.
‘Great art is meant to challenge our senses, our feelings and our prejudices… We should not be deterring students from engaging with these works.’
Dame Janet Suzman, who has starred in productions of Antony And Cleopatra, The Merchant Of Venice and Love’s Labour’s Lost, also said she had no time for what she described as ‘piffle’.
The university’s warning, a copy of which has been obtained by this newspaper under Freedom of Information laws, allows undergraduates studying Error and Sweet Violence: Shakespeare and Renaissance Comedy and Tragedy ‘to leave the class, interrupt their activity or take any measure necessary to take care of their wellbeing without the need for explanation or justification’ if they are confronted by content they consider upsetting.
In addition to Twelfth Night the warning also covers the Shakespeare plays Othello, Measure For Measure and Coriolanus, as well as Doctor Faustus and Edward II, both by Christopher Marlowe.
Twelfth Night, which is believed to have been written between 1601 and 1602, tells the story of twins Viola and Sebastian, who become separated following a shipwreck.