Twelfth Night Discussion Questions

Instructor: Alicia Taylor

Alicia has taught students of all ages and has a master's degree in Education

Looking for some thought provoking discussion questions for ''Twelfth Night''? Here are some prompts that will help your students explore its major themes, characters, and plot points. These questions cover the whole play.

Questions about Themes

  • Romantic love is a major theme in Twelfth Night. So are other kinds of love, like friendship and the love between siblings. Does Shakespeare portray certain kinds of love as being better than others? Are some more reasonable than others? More helpful? More essential?
  • Duke Orsino says that a woman's love is not as deep as a man's love (II, 4, 93-103). Does Shakespeare agree with Orsino or not? What specific examples from the play prove his agreement or disagreement?
  • How do lies affect love in Twelfth Night? In what ways do they allow love to grow? In what ways do they harm the growth of love? How does the revelation of truth affect love?

Questions about Characters

  • Examine Act II, Scene 4 and Act III, Scene 1. In these scenes, Olivia, Viola, and Orsino each try to talk each other out of loving someone. But, their attempts inadvertently prompt deeper love. What causes them to fail?
  • Olivia and Viola are both young women who have lost their fathers and recently lost their brothers. What other parallels exist between these characters? What makes them different from one another? Why can Viola fall in love with Orsino when Olivia cannot?
  • What does Malvolio's transformation reveal? Is he simply a victim, or have the pranks proven something about him?
  • Many of the characters in Twelfth Night are interested in what they can't have. Which characters show interest in someone who does not love them back? Does Shakespeare suggest a cure for this problem?

Questions about Plot

  • In the main plot line of Twelfth Night, Olivia, Orsino, Viola, and Sebastian fall in love. In another plot line, Sir Toby's group plays a prank on Malvolio. How does each of these plot lines help each other move forward?
  • At the end of the play, Orsino chooses to marry his friend, Viola. Is this a good decision? What evidence from the play suggests that the love found through friendship will make him happy or unhappy?

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