John Basil, founding member of the American Globe Theatre in New York City, directed graduate students from Penn State's School of Theatre in this production of selected scenes from William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night during Penn State's 2007 theatre season.
Jennifer Evans, Josie Gildow, and Gary Masquelier, English teachers from central Pennsylvania, wrote lesson plans based on these video segments.
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Mistaking Sebastian for Cesario, Feste, Sir Andrew, and Sir Toby take turns abusing him. Olivia enters and comes to Sebastian’s rescue (remember that she still thinks he is Cesario). Befuddled by all of this strange behavior but considering it a dream from which he doesn’t want to awaken, Sebastian follows Olivia out of the scene.
This short scene does a lot to propel the comic arc of the play, mainly through the visual humor of the mistaken identities of Cesario (Viola) and Sebastian. Additionally, we see some slapstick physical comedy when Sir Andrew and Sebastian get into a minor slapping match, as well as when Olivia berates her cousin and his cohorts in one breath then sweetly soothes Sebastian in the next. This would be an excellent scene to view as well as to act out in class to emphasize the physicality of Shakespeare’s humor.
This scene is also a good one to illustrate the concept of “willing suspension of disbelief for the moment.”
Consider: Are Viola and Sebastian really so similar that the two cannot be told apart? How believable is this premise? As a director, how important is it to find actors who look alike to play these two roles? Does it seem at all important to the director of our video version? How much can the director expect his audience to suspend their disbelief?
(Lines 5-9): No, I do not know you; nor I am not sent to you by my lady, to bid you come speak with her; nor your name is not Master Cesario; nor this is not my nose neither. Nothing that is so is so.
These lines, spoken by Feste when Sebastian honestly denies knowing him, epitomize the theme of capriciousness, particularly the final line.
(Lines 60-63): What relish is in this? How runs the stream? / Or I am mad, or else this is a dream. / Let fancy still my sense in Lethe steep; / If it be thus to dream, still let me sleep!
These lines of Sebastian’s also reinforce the notion of caprice and fantasy, especially when it comes to love. He declares that if he’s dreaming, he hopes to remain so as long as Olivia is doting on him.
Rhyme:Why do you suppose Shakespeare makes Sebastian’s last four-line aside (60-63) a rhyming quatrain? What is the effect of this choice?
1. Have you ever had a dream and wished it wouldn’t end? Describe it.
2. Write a journal entry from Sebastian’s perspective in which you describe the events of Act IV, Scene 1.
Have students block and stage this scene, focusing on the physical and slapstick comedy.