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"O Time, thou must untangle this": Tangling up the Love in Twelfth Night

Teachers' Rating:
  7 ratings

Unknown artist. Twelfth Night, Olivia and Viola. Engraving, late 18th or early 19th century.

January 2004
Rebecca Rufo, East Side Middle School, New York City, NY.

Plays/Scenes Covered
Twelfth Night, pre-reading activity
What's On for Today and Why
Part of teaching middle school and high school students is dealing with lovelorn, love obsessed, and lovesick teenagers. While reading Twelfth Night, students will discover that the characters in the play have as much trouble with love (and often times, more) as they do. This lesson allows students to toy with the theme of love and explore the different characters' opinions about love before they begin the play. Students will have a chance to play with language, engage in performance, and grow excited about the play before it begins.

This activity will take at least two 50-minute class periods.
What You Need

Folger edition of Twelfth Night
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts

Connecting Love Speeches Group Presentation
Love Speeches in Twelfth Night
What To Do
1. Break students into groups of 5.

2. Each member of the group should receive a copy of the attached "Love Speeches in Twelfth Night" handout with the following speeches: Orsino, 1.1.1-15; Viola 2.2.18-26 and 33-41; and Olivia, 3.1.152-164.

3. Ask students to read each speech several times, circling any words or phrases that they find confusing.

4. Lead a class discussion with the students. Ask them to consider possible meanings for any words that seem confusing.

5. Pass out one "Connecting Love Speeches in Twelfth Night Group Presentation" handout to each group. Explain to students that, in their groups, they will break up the lines into sets (which can be anywhere from 1–4 lines) that seem to convey a single idea or seem to want to stand on their own. Then, after the group has broken all of the speeches up into pieces, the students must find a creative way to merge all three speeches into a performance. This can be done in countless ways. For example, pick students to play each character and read that character's lines, and then have the other students act out the scenes silently. The only requirements are that all 5 members be involved in the presentation and that the lines from the three speeches be intertwined in some way, so that the parallels between the speeches are clear.

6. After each group has performed, ask students to write a response addressing the following questions: Describe each of the following characters in 2–3 sentences based on the speeches you read: Orsino, Viola, Olivia. How do you think these characters are connected to each other in the play? Which of the presentations did you find most effective? Why? What questions remain in your mind after today's activity?

7. Extension activity: Have students revisit their written response as they read the play, adding in insights and opinions of the characters.
How Did It Go?
Did the students pick out different ideas and themes in each speech? Did they connect the three speeches together? Did they formulate initial impressions about each character? Did they become more comfortable with Shakespeare's language?

If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.

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