ENG 3U: It Is All Just a Big Misunderstanding…

Today, I want you to identify examples of one of the cornerstones of comedy–misunderstanding–in Twelfth Night. Whether they be in the form of mistaken identities (the movie Date Night, for example),disguises (Mrs. Doubtfire) or miscommunication (basically, every romantic comedy ever made), misunderstandings make comedy work.

The steps:

  1. First, we will read act I scene iv as a class. In this scene, Duke Orsino tries to convince his new right-hand man, Cesario, to woo Olivia on his behalf. As we read, I’d like you to watch for examples of dramatic irony.
  2. Next, we will watch act I scene v. The scene starts with Feste (the fool) being chastised by Maria, Olivia’s servant; note how he is incredibly independent, and doesn’t feel the need to explain himself. Later, Feste  approaches Olivia and presents her with a syllogism;  notice how Olivia and the arrogant Malvolio respond. The scene continues with the arrival of Cesario; watch how Olivia’s behaviour changes when she hears a few compliments. Pay attention to the ring, ladies and gents.
  3. Once we have finished the scenes, you will form groups of 4.
  4. Each member of the group is responsible for finding examples of misunderstanding in one scene from Act I (either ii, iii, iv, or v) and writing these lines and a short description in his/her notes. You may include:
    • misinterpretations  (a character misinterprets another character’s words…think accost)
    • deliberate deception (one character deceives another, or perhaps simply plans to deceive another)
    • misreading events (a character really doesn’t understand what is happening)
  5. Once you have finished, we will used the “instant star” structure to share ideas.



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