Choose one of the following topics for your first essay.
1. Malvolio as a representative of Puritans
In what ways does Malvolio represent Puritans and why is this an insult? Through Malvolio’s character, what statement is Shakespeare making about the Puritan Movement?
• Research the history of the Puritan movement in England as it affected Shakespeare. What problems did the Puritans have with Shakespeare and vice versa? Hint: the rivalry is rooted in freedom of speech, expression, and art, which the Puritan movement sough to eliminate
• Discuss who the Puritans were in England circa 1600. What were their political intentions? How did this clash with Shakespeare and others? Sources and discussion should be historical and non-ideological.
• Discuss how Malvolio represents Puritans through his words, actions, and character.
• The conspirators in the plot to humiliate Malvolio make a big deal out of his “Puritan” ways. Why would this have been such an insult in Shakespeare’s time? Hirsch provides examples of Puritan references hidden in the text. Find some research that shows the historical position of Puritans in Shakespeare’s era and how they were perceived, and how Malvolio exemplifies the Puritan ideologies that are so reviled.
• Ultimately, what statement does Shakespeare make about the Puritan political movement through Malvolio.
2. Viola as a Gender Conformist
Viola’s cross-dressing escapades seem to throw gender roles into question at first. However, as the play develops, Viola clearly continues to conform to female gender roles, despite pretending to be a man (Cesario). As a result, Shakespeare actually reaffirms gendered stereotypes and expectations BY using the cross-dressing device.
• Discuss how Viola conforms to the expectations of women, even when she is acting the part of a man (Cesario).
• Discuss the point Shakespeare is making about gender roles/conformity through Viola/Cesario.
• Find examples and research that shows how Viola remains confined to these roles. Use Lindheim’s work as well as others.
3. Representations of Love
Discuss the different representations of love in Twelfth Night.
• What are three different ways that “love” is shown through the words and actions of characters? Which characters view/pursue each of the three forms you identify? Show this through their actions and motivations.
• One representation you should discuss is love as recompense (compensation). Multiple characters fall into this category.
• Other possibilities to consider:
o Is there a representation of “true” or “pure” love in the play? If so, how, why, who?
o Are any “nontraditional” forms of love represented?
o Forms of love do not have to be romantic.
o How do the representations of love by the women and the men differ?
o In regard to marriage, what seems to be the basis for the marriage matches that are made? Relate this to the idea of compensation. Use the work of Slights and others.