How would one come up with creative and suitable titles for each act in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The best way to approach creating creative titles for the acts is to consider what each act is about. You could even consider what role the act serves in plot development. The five elements of plot development are exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. The exposition is the moment when the characters, situation, and setting are introduced; rising action is any action in the story that leads to the climax, which is the turning point in the story, the most intense moment when the resolution comes into sight. Finally, the falling action is any further action that leads to the resolution, while the resolution is when all problems set forth in the plot are solved. If you can keep in mind the elements of plot development, you can see how each individual act is serving to develop the plot, and knowing the purpose of the act can help you think of a title for the act.

We can use the first act as an example. Every single scene taking place in this act serves as the exposition. In the first scene, we are introduced to Duke Orsino and his own problem of being in love with and rejected by Olivia. In the next scene, we are introduced to Viola as well as her problem of needing to protect her wealthy identity and her solution of disguising herself as a boy, which presents other problems in the play. We are also introduced to Olivia, Feste, Maria, Malvolio, and even Olivia's budding problem of falling in love with whom she thinks is Orsino's manservant. A great deal of what we are introduced to concerns the absurdity of the characters as well as the problems associated with love. In fact, one of the dominant themes concerns the foolishness of both people and love, especially people in love. Hence, suggestions for titles for the first act could be:

  • Exposition: Love and the Absurd
  • The Characters: Love and the Absurd
  • Love and the Foolish
Read the study guide:
Twelfth Night

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