Jill Karnop, Charles M. Russell High School, Great Falls, Montana.
Twelfth Night 1.3.44-139
What's On for Today and Why
This activity tries to focus students' attention on the comic elements of Twelfth Night by drawing parallels to examples of humor in popular culture. After brainstorming and analyzing modern examples of humor, they use their results to understand the different elements of comedy in the play. This activity can be adapted for use with other comic scenes.
This lesson will take one to three class periods.
What You Need
Folger edition of Twelfth Night
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
Handout: Elements of Comedy
What To Do
1. Ask students, "What do you think is funny?" As they brainstorm modern examples of comedy, record their responses on a chalkboard or overhead projector.
2. After generating a list, give students the attached handout of comic terms. Place students in groups of 3-4 and have each group generate possible definitions for each term. Have them use examples from the board to illustrate their meaning.
3. Bring the class together as a group and, through discussion, generate more complete definitions for all of the terms. Be prepared to supply definitions to terms the students can't figure out. If students have examples of humor that defy the terms on the handout, create a new definition.
4. Have students read 1.3.44-139 to each other in their small groups.
5. Ask students to highlight and label the different types of humor they find in the scene. Remind them that they will need to use textual notes, dictionaries, and verbal cues, so multiple readings will be required.
6. Assign students to perform different portions of the scene, exaggerating the elements of humor that they find. Allow time for them to practice this delivery.
7. Have students present the scene in order. Discuss the use of different kinds of humor that they find.
8. As you continue to read the play, ask students to continue to point out comic elements in the rest of the text.
How Did It Go?
Did students develop a better understanding of the elements of comedy? Were they able to find instances of humor in Shakespeare? Did they show off those instances visually and verbally through their performance? Did you laugh? Did they?
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.