Activity Overview

Students can create and show a storyboard that captures the concept of the Five Act Structure by making a six-cell storyboard. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the acts in order: Prologue, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Denouement.

Twelfth Night Five Act Structure Example

Act 1: Prologue

Duke Orsino is in love with Countess Olivia, who is in mourning for her recently-deceased brother. Olivia refuses to marry anyone for seven years, but Duke Orsino is determined to win her over. Meanwhile, Viola, a beautiful aristocrat, is shipwrecked on the island of Illyria, and she believes her twin brother Sebastian has likely drowned.

Act 1: Conflict

Viola disguises herself as a man and calls herself Cesario, and begins to serve in Duke Orsino’s court. She ends up falling in love with Duke while still in disguise as a man. The Duke sends Cesario as an envoy to Olivia on his behalf, but Olivia ends up falling in love with “Cesario” and gifting “him” with a ring.

Act 2: Rising Action

Sebastian is actually very much alive, and staying with a man named Antonio on another side of the island. Like Viola, Sebastian believes his sister drowned. Meanwhile, members of Olivia’s court conspire to make her obnoxious steward Malvolio think that she has fallen in love with him. They deliver a letter in her handwriting telling him to act and dress strangely to prove his love for her.

Act 3: Climax

Sir Toby convinces Sir Andrew to challenge Cesario to a duel in order to win Olivia’s heart. Antonio enters as the two are about to duel and thinks that “Cesario” is Sebastian, whom he has come to care for very much. He steps between the men and is carried away by guards because he is an enemy of Duke Orsino. However, because “Cesario” doesn’t recognize him, he believes “Sebastian” has betrayed him. Malvolio’s behavior alarms Olivia, and she believes he has gone crazy. Maria, Sir Toby, and Fabian take the opportunity to lock Malvolio up.

Act 4: Falling Action

Meanwhile, Sirs Toby and Andrew come across Sebastian nearby, and mistake him for Cesario. Andrew attacks Sebastian, and Olivia arrives, separating the men and bringing the very bewildered Sebastian back to her home because she believes him to be her Cesario, too. She asks him to marry her, and he happily agrees. Feste, the Fool, disguises himself as a priest and messes with Malvolio, making Malvolio begin to wonder if he is crazy after all.

Act 5: Denouement

Antonio is brought in to see Orsino, and his rantings about Sebastian’s betrayal are bewildering to Cesario because “he” does not know him. Olivia comes in and greets Viola, thinking that she is the man that she just married. Sebastian arrives, and Viola reveals her true identity. Orsino comes to realize that he’s in love with Viola, and the couples are happy. Malvolio is released from his prison when it is revealed that the letter was a forgery; he swears his revenge.

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of Twelfth Night.

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Separate the play into the Prologue/Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Denouement.
  3. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the acts.
  4. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.
  5. Save often!

Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 9-12

Difficulty Level 2 (Reinforcing / Developing)

Type of Assignment Individual, Partner, or Group

Type of Activity: The Five Act Play (Dramatic Structure)

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/2] Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/3] Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/5] Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Five Act Structure Rubric (Grades 9-12)
Create a plot diagram for the play using Prologue/Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
Proficient Emerging Beginning Try Again
Descriptive and Visual Elements
Cells have many descriptive elements, and provide the reader with a vivid representation.
Cells have many descriptive elements, but flow of cells may have been hard to understand.
Cells have few descriptive elements, or have visuals that make the work confusing.
Cells have few or no descriptive elements.
Textables have three or fewer spelling/grammar errors.
Textables have four or fewer spelling/grammar errors.
Textables have five or fewer spelling/grammar errors.
Textables have six or more spelling/grammar errors.
Evidence of Effort
Work is well written and carefully thought out. Student has done both peer and teacher editing.
Work is well written and carefully thought out. Student has either teacher or peer editing, but not both.
Student has done neither peer, nor teacher editing.
Work shows no evidence of any effort.
All parts of the plot are included in the diagram.
All parts of the plot are included in the diagram, but one or more is confusing.
Parts of the plot are missing from the diagram, and/or some aspects of the diagram make the plot difficult to follow.
Almost all of the parts of the plot are missing from the diagram, and/or some aspects of the diagram make the plot very difficult to follow.

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Twelfth Night

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