Suggested Essay Ideas
Act I, Scene 1
1. Does the Duke’s opening speech show praise for Olivia in particular or for the experience of love in general? Explain your answer by citing specific lines.
2. What kind of judgment would you make about the Duke’s character based on his speech and behavior in the first scene? Discuss why you get this impression. Discuss either several specific qualities or one generalized personality trait.
Act I, Scene 2
1. Viola comments on the deceptiveness of appearances. People aren’t always what they seem to be. Why do you think this theme would be significant in a play that deals with love? Cite evidence from the play to support your answer.
2. Why does the love object have to come down from the altar of the lover’s worship? Why, that is, can’t the Duke keep praising Olivia forever? How does Viola make it clear that there’s more to being in love than just poetry? Make sure you present your topic sentences clearly in the essay.
Act I, Scene 3
1. Sir Andrew may not be a good suitor for Olivia. Defend this thesis statement referring to specific examples from the dialogue.
2. Analyze the dance imagery found in lines 116–138. Why do you think Shakespeare included it in the dialogue? With what aspect of the play does it tie in? What does it emphasize?
Act I, Scene 4
1. Think of your efforts to win a sweetheart when you’ve fallen in love, or what you might do to win one. In what ways would those efforts be similar or different from Cesario’s endeavors to woo Olivia for the Duke?
2. Consider once again the definition of “Romantic comedy” stated earlier. Why do you think the society of a given era would desire a happy ending? Would you like to see Twelfth Night end in another way than it does?
Act I, Scene 5
1. How does the Clown prove that Olivia is a fool? Is he correct or incorrect in his assessment? Explain your answer with evidence found in the text.
2. How many love strands does the first act contain? Who is involved in them? Where do the relationships stand by the end of Act I in relation to how they will eventually develop?
Act II, Scene 1
1. Name one characteristic of poetic language and one of prose. After you state those, select one speech in the play that contains poetry and another from Act II, Scene i that contains prose, and explain the differences you notice between the two. Allow your imagination to explore the significance of the two different styles.
2. An important issue to be aware of when discussing characters’ motivations and fates is that of “free will” versus “determinism or fate.” Define these two concepts. And then, consider lines 3–8, spoken by Sebastian, in the light of that issue. Does Sebastian feel that he is in full control of things?
Act II, Scene 2
1. An important issue to be aware of when discussing characters’ motivations and fates is that of “free will” versus “determinism or fate.” Define these two concepts. And then, consider lines 3–8, spoken by Sebastian, in the light of that issue. Does Sebastian feel that he is in full control of things?
Act II, Scene 3
1. Describe the fun and festive atmosphere that makes up most of this scene. What role does Feste the Clown play in it? Cite specific lines to strengthen your description. Do you enjoy the playfulness? Why or why not?
(The entire section is 1439 words.)