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Activity Overview


Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes and symbols from the play, and support their choices with details from the text.


Themes to Look For and Discuss

The Triviality of Love

The love triangle in Twelfth Night happens as the result of mistaken identity for some. Viola falls in love with Duke Orsino, but the Duke is in love with Olivia. In disguise as Cesario, Viola can’t reveal her feelings to the Duke anyway; in the meantime, Olivia falls in love with “Cesario”.

Eventually, Sebastian stumbles onto the scene and gets drawn into the love triangle when Olivia convinces him to marry her, thinking he’s Cesario. Malvolio is in love with Olivia and makes a fool out of himself in order to impress her. Sir Andrew is also in love with Olivia, and he wants to duel with Cesario for her honor. While the love in this play seems superficial, in the end, it brings all of the characters together except Malvolio.


Deception and Madness

Viola, alone on the island of Illyria and believing that now all of her family is dead, decides to create a new persona for herself and serves in the Duke’s court. Her hidden identity, however, causes a major mix-up when Olivia falls in love with her alter ego Cesario and then mistakes her brother Sebastian for him. Maria also deceives Malvolio by writing him a letter pretending to be Olivia, so that he would do ridiculous things in order to impress her and then be treated as mad. Since he is so obnoxious, the others see this as an opportunity to be rid of him. Feste compounds this theme by pretending to be a priest in order to confuse Malvolio even more.


Disorder

The chaos and disorder that are caused by Viola’s original deception plays out comedically well. Her disguise leads to confusion, duels, a fight, an accidental marriage, and a marriage of her own. While Viola’s deception does cause problems, ultimately, it leads to restored order by the end of the play: Olivia and Sebastian are married, she and the Duke will be married soon, and even Maria announces her marriage to Sir Toby. Antonio also resolves his feud with Duke Orsino.


Gender Roles

The play centers around disguises and the ability of Viola to transition seamlessly into her male alter-ego, Cesario. She is not only able to fool the Duke and other servants, but she also develops a close relationship with Olivia, even though she refuses her advances. Viola is not only able to break the gender barrier in her ruse, but she challenges the Duke’s ideas of how women love: he does not believe that anyone can love as fiercely as a man can, but in fact, she loves him just as fiercely as he seems to love Olivia.



Motifs & Symbols to Look For and Discuss

The Ring

Olivia, after meeting Cesario, sends him a ring which she insists Cesario brought to her; however, when Malvolio delivers the ring to “Cesario”, Viola realizes that there is meaning hidden behind it. Instead of Olivia falling for the Duke’s lines about love, Olivia has fallen for Cesario. The love triangle begins with this ring.


The Letters

There are three letters that are written in the play: the first is the Duke’s letter of love to Olivia, which Cesario has to memorize and deliver to her, beginning the triangle; the second is the fake letter from Maria to Malvolio, purportedly from Olivia, which sends Malvolio into extreme measures to impress her, leaving Olivia and himself questioning whether or not he is mad. The third letter is Malvolio’s letter to Olivia, which clears up the misunderstanding about the fake letter from before. While this letter earns Malvolio his freedom, his anger at the chaos the others have caused for him leaves him fuming at the end of the play.


Malvolio’s Dark Room

Malvolio doesn’t really understand that he’s been hoodwinked by Sir Toby, Fabian, and Maria in a fake letter purportedly sent to him by Olivia until he is thrown into a dark room. Feste, the Fool, comes to him dressed as a priest and further confuses him by asking him nonsense questions. Feste even tells him that the room is not actually dark, it’s filled with light, but Malvolio cannot see it. This begins to confuse Malvolio, because he doesn’t believe he is mad, but the chaos caused by deception makes him question what is happening to him.


Costumes and Clothing

The costumes and clothing of the characters in the play keep the disorder and deception going. First, Viola disguises herself as a man, and does so quite well; then, Malvolio begins to dress in ridiculous clothing in order to capture Olivia’s attention, per Maria’s fake letter; finally, once he is imprisoned for madness, Feste poses as a priest to further confuse Malvolio’s mind. At the end of the play, even though the Duke hasn’t yet seen Viola dressed as a woman and they are waiting for her clothes to be delivered to her, he still agrees to marry her, challenging the strictness of gender roles even further.


Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 9-12

Difficulty Level 3 (Developing to Mastery)

Type of Assignment Individual or Partner

Type of Activity: Themes, Symbols & Motifs

Common Core Standards
  • [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
  • [ELA-Literacy/SL/9-10/2] Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source


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 storyboard that identifies recurring themes in Twelfth Night. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the theme(s) from Twelfth Night you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for an example that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.



Rubric

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



Themes, Symbols, and Motifs (Grades 9-12)
Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes, symbols, and/or motifs in the story. Illustrate instances of each and write a short description that explains the example's significance.
Proficient Emerging Beginning Needs Improvement
Identification of Theme(s), Symbol(s), and/or Motif(s)
All themes are correctly identified as important recurring topics or messages in the story. Symbols are correctly identified as objects that represent something else at a higher level in the story. Motifs are correctly identified as important recurring features or ideas in the story.
Most themes are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete. Most symbols are correctly identified, but some objects are missing or incomplete. Some motifs are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete.
Most themes are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most symbols are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most motifs are missing, incomplete, or incorrect.
No themes, symbols, or motifs are correctly identified.
Examples and Descriptions
Quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motifs that are being identified. Descriptions mostly accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s), and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are minimal, incorrect, or unrelated to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions contain inaccuracies in their explanations, or do not highlight their significance to the story.
Examples and descriptions are missing or too minimal to score.
Depiction
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are accurate to the story and reflect time, effort, thought, and care with regard to placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are mostly accurate to the story. They reflect time and effort put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are inaccurate to the story. The depictions may be rushed or show minimal effort, time, and care put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Most depictions are missing too many elements or are too minimal to score. Little time or effort has been put into placement and creation of the scenes.
English Conventions
There are no errors in spelling, grammar, or mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions reflect careful proofreading and accuracy to the story.
There are a few errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions show accuracy to the story and some proofreading.
There are several errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. Most writing portions do not reflect proofreading or accuracy to the story.
Errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics in writing portions of the storyboard seriously interfere with communication.




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