Twelfth Night is a play of its time but also has relevance for the 21st Century - Discuss

This essay title asks you look first at the ways in which the play is shaped by the ideas and conventions of its time and then at the elements within it which we can still recognise as being true today.

Things to consider when seeing it as a play of its time:

The occasion for which Twelfth Night was written. It was first performed on Jan 6th 1601 in front of Queen Elizabeth who had as her guest an Italian duke called Orsino (check the details in the intro. of your text)

The title; Twelfth Night was traditionally, at this time, a time of misrule and disorder, where normal social rules and conventions were turned upside down. It was a time at which "anything goes" and we see this reflected in the way in which gender boundaries and class boundaries are crossed in the play. You would need to look in your essay at the way in which girls "become" boys, aristocrats fall in love with servants and vice versa, lower status servants torment their higher status managers and love at first sight becomes unquestioningly acceptable. (textual reference necessary)

Recognisable characteristics in the characters; find out about puritans at the time Shakespeare was writing. Which character in the play displays these characteristics? (quote to prove) Look at the intro. to your text, where it suggests that one of the characters might be a cruel caricature of someone actually well known at the time. The language of the play; vocabulary is very different now, and the language of the play can be challenging. (quote to prove)

Are there any "in jokes" or references that would have made sense to the people of the time but which are lost on us? (quote to prove)

(This will enable me to tick the social/historical/cultural box)

Things to consider when looking at its 21st Century relevance:

The way people behave and the attitudes they display: Look at the characters involved in the play and produce character studies of them (with relevant and apposite supporting quotations) Do people still have these character attributes today? Can you make comparisons with people today on TV, in films or in public life?

Is there still a desire for anarchy and misrule? You might want to make reference to the recent May Day riots in London during which the statue of Winston Churchill was given a grass mohican .

Now, you may go along with Carol Vordeman in feeling that Shakespeare is a load of rubbish, but for the duration of this essay you have to accept that, like it or not, elements of the play are still recognisable in today's society. That doesn't mean you have to go into rhapsodies about the play, but you would damage your chances of success if you argued that the play has no point of contact with the 21st century, as that position is just not tenable.

Remember to check the wall outside room 79 to remind yourselves of the grade descriptors. Remember also that spelling, punctuation and grammar do matter, and that variation in sentence style makes for an interesting read.

Good luck