Last semester when I taught Twelfth Night, I led my students in creating a “relationship map” on the board. We delighted in the ridiculous web of relationships and interactions, and we then went on to discuss what the play suggests about love, identity, attraction, adoration, etc.
This semester, I decided to expand that activity a bit. After they read Acts I-III for today, I asked my students to work in groups and create their own maps on paper (or laptops). One member from each group then came up to the board to draw their maps in one of five squares. The sixth square was reserved for me.
Once they had all drawn their maps, I asked them to crowd around the board and peruse their classmates’ maps. I stood at a distance behind them and let them comment and exclaim without my interference. (Except for when one student said “What’s with that one, it’s mad confusing,” and another said “that’s the professor’s!” and I laughed out loud…)
Finally, I asked them to sit down again and free-write for five minutes about “relationships, connections, interactions, identity, and / or love,” based on their process of creating the map and based on their observations of each other’s maps.
Pretty much every topic and observation I wanted to highlight was raised by their reflections. (They raised themes of disguise, pretense, gender, sexuality, status, and emotion in addition to the ones I had listed.)
We’ll continue the discussion next class, after they’ve finished reading the final two acts of the play. They’ll be reading these final two acts with a clearer idea of what some events might mean, and with the question firmly in their mind: “What does this play suggest about all these themes?”
I did almost no lecture for this class, though I will do some next class, when we watch clips from various productions and I provide a bit more background on some of the relevant context.