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The Bullying of Malvolio

Teachers' Rating:
  7 ratings

George Henry Hall. Malvolio confronting the revelers. Oil on canvas, 1855.

January 2011
Jenny Goransson teaches English at West Springfield High School, Springfield, VA

Plays/Scenes Covered
Twelfth Night 1.5, 2.3, 2.5, 3.4, 4.2, and 5.1 (scenes with Malvolio)
What's On for Today and Why

This lesson explores Malvolio's behavior and treatment by having students first reflect on their own experiences with bullying. Teachers are reminded to stress that bullying is unacceptable behavior.

By Act 5, observations of Malvolio will have included some annoying personality traits, his mistreatment by others, leading from practical joke to his temporary incarceration.

As a pre-reading activity, students will discuss their own observations of bullying either as insiders or outsiders. After having read the play, students will cut one of the key scenes in the play, highlighting one or more of the "bullying trends".

Finally, using the website, www.pixton.com students will create an electronic comic strip depicting two possible interpretations of one scene that involves Malvolio: one where he is a focus of harmless comedy, one where he is a victim of spiteful mistreatment.


Viewing each other's comic strips, students will discuss the action of the scene and return to a closure question: What does Twelfth Night teach us about bullying, punishment, and/or forgiveness?


This lesson can be broken down into 3 x 45 minute class periods.

What You Need

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

Computer access

Twelfth Night, BBC 1980 film

What To Do

Day 1

Conduct a brainstorm discussion using the following questions:

  • What is a bully?
  • Who is bullied and why?
  • What techniques are used by bullies?
  • How do/should bystanders react to bullies?
  • How can bullying be addressed?

Jot down responses and accumulate a list of characteristics of bullying.



Day 2

1. Assign each group one of the Malvolio scenes (as listed below)


2. Have each group  annotate their scene, noting any characteristics of bullying. Students may cut the scene, highlighting the aspects that demonstrate how teasing can escalate to cruelty.


Scenes (Folger edition)









Day 3

1. Using a free software such as www.pixton.com, have students create two comic strips: one that makes the reader laugh at the treatment of Malvolio, the other that makes the reader feel sympathy for Malvolio. Students can use any lines from the play but need to justify choices of costume, set, etc.


Day 4

1. Review the comic strips, noting why one feels sympathy for Malvolio or feels the need to laugh at him.Conduct a concluding discussion about what the play and the class discussions teach us about bullying, punishment, and forgiveness.


2. Has any insight been gained through this activity?



Watch several different versions of the play (e.g. BBC Twelfth Night 1980) and note how the bullying is portrayed. How is the action staged to elicit a specific response from the audience?

How Did It Go?
  1. Did students talk openly and respectfully about their observations of or experience with bullying?
  2. What adaptations could be made for students who struggled with this? Did students need more time? Did they stay on task?
  3. Did this activity generate debate as to whether Malvolio deserves his treatment or not?
  4. Did the students consider the treatment of Malvolio in 4.3 to be bullying?
  5. Did students create a variety of interpretations of Malvolio in their comic strips?
  6. Did a comparison of the initial brainstorm to the closing discussion reveal any insights into the play and beyond?


This activity could be adapted for Romeo and Juliet by focusing on the bullying techniques of Mercutio and Tybalt in 3.1.


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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2 CommentsOldest | Newest

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coco November 16, 2014 12:51 PM

This is just the next big thing for me and I think it might be for many other people also. Thanks a lot for this...cheers and keep it up festa valente
Sheila October 13, 2014 7:27 PM
  Common Core State Standards

There are no standards associated with this Lesson Plan.
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