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        Twelfth Night Act 2 Sc 4 Lesson Plan

        In this lesson based on Act 2 Sc 4 of Twelfth Night, students examine Orsino's conversations with Olivia, Feste's song and riddles, and similes about love. They discuss gender roles and levels of love. Activities include a journal entry and a video.

        Lesson Summary


        Back at Orsino’s palace, the Duke summons Feste to perform a song for him. In the meantime, Orsino and Viola have a conversation about a certain someone Viola (Cesario) fancies, and Orsino offers his love advice. When Feste arrives, he sings “Come Away Death,” then Orsino and Viola’s conversation continues. Orsino declares the he will not take “no” for an answer from Olivia, but Viola protests that love doesn’t always go according to plan. The two then debate men’s and women’s capacities for love, and at the end of their exchange, Orsino orders Viola (Cesario) to return to Olivia with a love token from him.

        Close Reading Analysis:

        • Discussion Points:
          • (Lines 15-20) Come hither, boy. If ever thou shalt love,

            In the sweet pangs of it remember me;

            For such as I am all true lovers are,

            Unstaid and skittish in all motions else

            Save in the constant image of the creature

            That is beloved.

            These lines further emphasize Orsino’s character as a hopeless romantic caught up in unrealistic Petrarchan love. It seems that Orsino is more in love with the idea of being in love than with Olivia herself. In this speech to Viola (Cesario), we see Orsino’s self-centeredness in wanting to be thought of as the model of a true lover.

          • (Lines 23-41)- Orsino's conversation with Viola

            As the scene continues, Orsino’s self-absorption becomes painfully clear through Shakespeare’s use of dramatic irony as Viola professes her love for him and he totally misses her advances. (She is, in Orsino’s defense, dressed as a male the entire time!) Orsino’s advice about women is interesting to note: Then let thy love be younger than thyself, / Or thy affection cannot hold the bent; / For women are as roses, whose fair flow’r, / Being once displayed, doth fall that very hour. What is Orsino saying? What does this advice demonstrate about his character and his values?

          • (Lines 51-66)- Feste’s song, “Come Away Death”

            What does this melancholy song have to do with the play? Why include it here?

          • (Lines 73-78) Now the melancholy god protect thee, and the tailor make thy doublet of changeable taffeta, for thy mind is a very opal. I would have men of such constancy put to sea, that their business might be everything, and their intent everywhere; for that’s it that always makes a good voyage of nothing.

            Feste often speaks in riddles, yet his words hold deep significance. What do you make of these parting words to Orsino?

          • (Lines 81-119)- Orsino’s conversation with Viola about men’s and women’s hearts

            What does Orsino believe about men’s and women’s capacity for love? Does Viola’s disguise allow her to say things (in defense of women) that a woman would not typically be able to say?

        • Themes:

          Gender Roles: (See above section—Lines 81-119)

          Levels of Love: Compare Orsino’s professed love for Olivia with Viola’s secret love for Orsino. Which seems stronger? More likely to succeed? Why?

        • Literary Devices:
          • Simile: (Lines 101-102) But [my love] is as hungry as the sea / And can digest as much. —Orsino describing the boundlessness of his love. Notice that he uses hunger imagery—what might this tell us about his character?

          • Simile: (Lines 111-113) She never told her love, / But let concealment, like a worm i’ th’ bud, / Feed on her damask cheek.—Viola hints at her hidden feelings for Orsino. Look closely at the choice of imagery: what effect does this concealment have on her? (Keep in mind: Worms have phallic significance throughout literature. For example, see Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress.”)

        Reading Assessments:

        • Journal Prompts:

          Disguising oneself to express true feelings; disguise as a means to speak the unspeakable (Borat, Stephen Colbert)


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