For Assignment #3, first read at least the first three Acts of Twelfth Night. Watching the Trevor Nunn movie version of the play is also recommended.
The assignment has two parts; your written answer to each part should be about 250 words, or 500 words in total. If you use Times 12-point font and double-space your text, this basically means two pages in total. You are welcome to write more, but it is quality that counts, not quantity.
Please write in complete sentences and paragraphs. Otherwise, you can write informally–you don’t have to write in essay format. Write clearly, and to the point.
Submit your assignment via Blackboard, as a single electronic file, in one of two formats: Microsoft Word or PDF. Please note that, as a student, you have access to Microsoft Word for free.
I WILL NOT ACCEPT ASSIGNMENTS BY EMAIL OR ASSIGNMENTS IN FORMATS OTHER THAN WORD OR PDF.
Name your file with your last name followed by the number “3.” For example, my file would be called Monte3.docx or Monte3.pdf.
The deadline for the assignment is 12:30 PM on Tuesday, September 19. After that time, the assignment page on Blackboard will disappear. NO LATE ASSIGNMENTS WILL BE ACCEPTED.
If you want to make changes to an assignment that you have already submitted, you can resubmit the assignment as many times as you like up until the deadline. Only your last submission will count.
Detailed instructions of assignment:
Type your full name on the first page of your assignment, followed by “Assignment 3, Intro to Shakespeare.”
On the next line, type “Part 1” and answer Part 1 of the assignment.
When you have finished Part 1, type “Part 2” and answer Part 2 of the assignment.
Part 1: First, re-read Act 2, Scene 4 (starts on page 67 in the Folger edition with the line “Give me some music.”) This is the scene in which Orsino and Viola (dressed as Caesario) discuss love. We will discuss this scene in detail in class. For now, I want you to get some practice in understanding Shakespeare’s language. I want you to do your own “No Fear” translation of some of the lines in this scene–specifically lines 115–130, starting with Orsino’s “What dost thou know?” and ending with Viola’s “but little in our love” (pages 73–75 in the Folger). Your task is to turn Shakespeare’s verse into twenty-first-century prose. This means translating any difficult or confusing words into plain English, and it means changing the word order, as needed, into everyday conversational order. So, for example, take Orsino’s lines just before this passage. Orsino says “Make no compare / Between that love a woman can bear me / And that I owe Olivia.” A good translation would be: “Don’t make a comparison between the kind of love that a woman can feel for me and the love that I have for Olivia.”
Part 2: Music appears a lot in this play, starting with the opening line: “If music be the food of love, play on.” What role or roles does music play? In answering this question, discuss at least two scenes in which songs appear or music is an important topic of conversation.
William Shakespeare’s romantic comedy Twelfth Night features music prominently throughout the play. From the opening line, “If music be the food of love, play on,” it is clear that music will serve an important symbolic and thematic role in the story. Over the course of the play’s five acts, Shakespeare uses music both as a plot device and as a metaphor to explore themes of love, disguise, and self-discovery in Illyria.
One of the earliest and most significant scenes involving music is Act 1, Scene 1. Here, Orsino laments unrequited love for the Countess Olivia and commands his musicians to play soothing songs to ease his melancholy. “If music be the food of love, play on,” he instructs (Shakespeare 1.1.1). This opening line establishes music as a symbol of love throughout the play. Orsino believes music can stir his passions and help him win Olivia’s affection. His request also foreshadows music’s role in manipulating emotions and disguising identities.
Music takes on an even more direct role in advancing the plot in Act 1, Scene 3. Here, Feste the clown sings a song mocking Orsino’s infatuation that helps introduce Viola, who has just arrived in Illyria disguised as the page Cesario. Viola’s gender disguise is further solidified when she must sing for Olivia’s entertainment (Shakespeare 1.5.123-125). Singing was traditionally thought of as a feminine art, so Viola’s ability to sing as Cesario enhances her male charade (Chew 2022). These early musical scenes establish patterns that continue throughout the play: music manipulates emotions, disguises identities, and propels the intertwining plotlines forward.
One of the most poignant musical scenes occurs in Act 2, Scene 4 between Orsino and Viola. Orsino asks Viola, still disguised as Cesario, about the nature of love, hoping Cesario can understand his longing for Olivia. Viola, secretly in love with Orsino herself, struggles to explain her own feelings without revealing her true identity (Shakespeare 2.4.100-130). Her response, “I am all the daughters of my father’s house, / And all the brothers too, and yet I know not,” suggests the confusion music and disguise have caused in sorting out her emotions (2.4.119-120). This scene highlights how music initially helped Viola infiltrate Illyrian society but now complicates her ability to express authentic feelings.
Music takes on an even more literal role late in the play. In Act 5, Scene 1, Feste sings “O Mistress Mine” and “Come Away, Death” to highlight the revelry of the final wedding celebrations but also symbolize the emotional resolutions various characters have found. The songs celebrate the marriages of Orsino and Viola, and Sir Toby Belch and Maria, while also mourning Malvolio’s downfall (Shakespeare 5.1.1-62). Through Feste’s songs, Shakespeare brings the play full circle by returning to music as a device to manipulate and reflect on themes of love, disguise, and self-knowledge.
In conclusion, William Shakespeare deftly uses music throughout Twelfth Night as both a plot device and symbolic motif. From Orsino’s opening command to play love songs to ease his melancholy, to Viola’s strategic use of singing to maintain her male disguise, to Feste’s songs celebrating and mourning at the play’s climax, music serves vital roles in propelling the story, shaping characters’ emotions, and representing the themes of love, disguise, and self-discovery that Twelfth Night explores. Shakespeare demonstrates music’s power to manipulate both feelings and identities, while also allowing characters to find clarity, connection, and resolution through its influence. The play’s abundance of musical scenes underscores how integral music proves to Illyria’s romantic entanglements and resolutions.
Chew, Samantha. “Gender, Singing and Social Hierarchy in Twelfth Night.” Shakespeare, vol. 8, no. 1, Mar. 2022, pp. 20–35. EBSCOhost, https://doi.org/10.7592/SHAKESPEARE.2022.8.1.CHEW. Accessed 16 Sept. 2023.
Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night. The Folger Shakespeare Library, Simon & Schuster, 2003.
“Music in Shakespearean Theatre.” British Library, 2022. https://www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/music-in-shakespearean-theatre. Accessed 16 Sept. 2023.
“The Role of Music in Twelfth Night.” Shakespeare Online, 2022. https://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/twelfthnight/musicintwelfthnight.html. Accessed 16 Sept. 2023.
Wainwright, Jeffrey. “Shakespeare and Music.” The Musical Times, vol. 126, no. 1711, 1985, pp. 559–561. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/963856. Accessed 16 Sept. 2023.