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        Twelfth Night Act 3 Sc 1 Lesson Plan

        In this lesson based on Act 3 Sc 1 of Twelfth Night, students discuss folly and false wit, the irony in Feste's character, and gender roles. Activities include acting practice, a video, and research and views of women's status in Shakespeare's time.

        Lesson Summary


        To begin this act, Viola enters Olivia’s garden dressed as Cesario to carry out Orsino’s errand instructed at the end of Act II. Cesario meets Feste, the clown, and in their meeting they exchange multiple puns in jest. Cesario pays Feste multiple coins for his fine ability and to go announce his presence to Olivia. Sir Toby and Sir Andrew arrive in the garden behaving foolishly and obviously intoxicated. Their exchange is awkward yet Toby invites Cesario into the house. Before they can proceed, Olivia comes down to the garden accompanied by her servant Maria.

        Immediately Olivia sends everyone away except Cesario. She is very excited to see him and anxious to hear what he has to say. When they are alone, Olivia begs Cesario to not deliver any more messages from Orsino. She tells Cesario that she is completely in love with him. Uncomfortably, Cesario tries to tell Olivia that she does not really love him as he is. Olivia disagrees and swears that she loves him. Cesario continues to say that he will never love a woman and that he does not share Olivia’s desire.

        Olivia desperately asks Cesario to come again using the ploy that maybe she will actually grow to love Orsino.

        Close Reading Analysis:

        • Discussion Points:
          • (Lines 61-62) This fellow is wise enough to play the fool, And to do that well craves a kind of wit.

          • (Lines 67-69) This is a practice as full of labor as a wise man’s art; For folly that he wisely shows, is fit; But wise men, folly-fall’n, quite taint their wit.

            How do these lines continue the message that the entire play is based on folly and false wit?

            How do these lines also show that Feste, thought the fool, is also quite intelligent? He takes his job quite seriously and is the consummate professional in reading people and their personal sense of humor. It is for this that Viola pays him.

          • (Lines 120-121) Have you not set mine honor at the stake And baited it with all th’ unmuzzled thoughts That tyrannous heart can think?

            Olivia is accusing Cesario of viciously teasing her by using the metaphor to the Elizabethan sport of bearbaiting. Here a bear was tied to a stake and harassed by savage dogs. Olivia is distraught that the “man” she loves is coming to woo her for another. (Oddly, it is interesting to note that Shakespeare’s theatre performances were rivaled for attendance by the local bear baiting star Harry Hunks.)

        • Vocabulary and Literary Devices:
          • Irony is epitomized in Feste’s character. He is to be the “fool” of the play but often he proves himself to be quite intelligent. It is the people of power and position that Shakespeare makes foolish.

        Reading Assessments:

        • Journal Prompts:

          Does Shakespeare play on the audience’s sense of traditional stereotypical gender roles to create humor in this scene? If your answer is “yes,” then explain how. If your answer is “no,” then why not?

        • Class Activities:

          1. Acting Practice

          • Ask the students to select a partner.
          • With this partner each person will memorize one of these lines:

            LINE 1: “Come on baby won’t you give me a smile?”

            LINE 2: “I’m sorry baby, but I just can’t smile.”

          • The partners should then change their tone of voice, their emphasis on individual words, and their body positioning to try to get the appropriate reaction from the other actor.
          • One should try to stay composed and unenthused; while the other tries to get them to crack a grin.

          After the students have some time to work together, ask a partner group to perform in front of the class.

          2. Following the performance,

          • Ask the audience:

            What tactics did the student use to get the other student to smile?

            What words were emphasized?

            What nonverbal actions did the student use?

            How did the other student resist the temptation to smile?

            How did this student counteract the aggressor?

            How did this student use the words of the line to remain unemotional?

            Which words are important or more commonly used to emphasize the desired outcome?

            Which word made the partners emotionally involved?

          • Ask the actors:

            How did you determine your strategy to get the other to smile?

            If you were not going to smile, what did you have to do? How did you keep your focus?

            What thoughts went through your head?

          3. Follow-up to the Activity

          This acting exercise is a way to show the students how to “behave” as actors. In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the actors must remain in their character role while they are saying or performing in a way that is really quite peculiar and funny. In scene one, Cesario must remain serious and stalwart in refusing Olivia’s affectionate advances. Yet being truly a woman disguised as a man, the audience sees Olivia’s advances as quite ludicrous.

          4.VIDEO Watch the entire scene from Twelfth Night Act 3 Sc 1 QuickTime Video.

        • Inquiry:

          Research how Shakespeare’s characters were all played by men. Young pre-pubescent lads were used to play the female’s roles. In more ways than one, this constant use of dual gender roles created humor and odd circumstances within his plays. How do you surmise Shakespeare felt about a woman’s status? Did he use this gender disguise within his plays to mock the rules? Discuss Shakespeare’s female characters and what their strengths and weaknesses are.


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