Compare and Contrast
1. Compare the three female characters in the show to each other. How are they similar, how are they different? Why do you think Shakespeare wrote them the way he did?
2. Many of Shakespeare’s plays deal with mistaken identity, disguises, and twins. How is Twelfth Night like Comedy of Errors? What about this show is uniquely funny/entertaining when compared to similar stories?
3. Watch the movie She’s the Man, 2006. Compare and contrast the two stories. What is the same? What is different? How do changes in the character’s relationships affect the meaning and feeling of the story?
1. Many of Shakespeare’s plays center around a female lead dressing as a man to either hide her identity (Viola in Twelfth Night and Rosalind in As You Like It) or act in ways that women were not permitted to (Portia in Merchant of Venice.) Why do you think Shakespeare employs this plot device so frequently? What does it say about his attitude toward women? Is his opinion different from what society’s would have been then?
2. Many of the Characters in Twelfth Night have names that give subtle clues to their character. One example is Feste, the fool. Feste could be referencing the words festival or festive. What other names in the text have these same hidden clues? Why do you think Shakespeare gave them such descriptive names?
3. Throughout the play almost every character makes a sweeping declaration of love, which is often unrequited. Is this a universal theme or just specific to Shakespeare’s time? Where else can you find an example?
1. Read Act 1, Scene 3. Shakespeare uses lots of witty wordplay in this scene. Where Sir Andrew and Sir Toby say one thing Maria spins it into another. As you read try turning these jokes in to modern English, are they still funny?
2. Read Act 5, Scene 1. It is a staple in Shakespearean comedy that everyone is happy at the end of the play. Twelfth Night is unique in the fact that Malvolio is the only character who doesn’t get his happy ending. Why do you think Shakespeare ended the show that way? Would you have ended it differently? Why?
3. Read Act 2, Scene 3. Who has the most power in the scene? Why? Does it shift as people leave and enter? How can you tell?
1. The title of the show refers to the feast of Epiphany, which was celebrated near Christmas time. (Anyone remember the Twelve Days of Christmas?) Traditionally during the celebration servants would dress as their masters and men would often dress as women. What connections can you draw between the holiday and the play?
2. It is very probable that Shakespeare wrote the role of Feste for Robert Armin. Robert Armin took over as the leading comedy actor after Will Kemp. Once he stepped in the roles of the fools became more philosophical rather than silly. What does this tell us about Shakespeare’s writing process? How would writing for specific actors affect the types of characters he wrote?
3. How to you think the actors (all male) would have overcome the challenges of performing this very romantic script to a widely diverse audience (some very rich and some very poor), in the middle of the day, with no special effects? What would they have to do to keep their attention? How does Shakespeare’s arrangement of the action help?