Shakespeare Twelfth Night, English homework help


Prepare a Power Point presentation on Shakespeare’s play “Twelfth Night”.

  • The presentation should analyze and breakdown of the play/script, using Aristotle’s terms and concepts (plot, characters, thought, dialogue/language, music and spectacle). It should also utilize notes from Lecture #2 – “What’s in a Play?” as guidelines to your analysis, and presentation.
  • Presentation should be between 15-20 slides including title and reference slide.
  • Include at least 3 APA formatted references required.
  • Presentation should be aesthetically pleasing with proper grammar and punctuation. It should also include pictures and diagrams with a credit as to where the image was retrieved from and the web address if applicable.
  • Transitions and sound are not necessary but are welcome if one so chooses to use them.

Terms and Supporting Information:

Lecture #2


  • Playwrights write plays and create plays out of everyday experiences. These experiences are frightening, challenging, upsetting, perplexing, troublesome, and inevitably must lead to drama. Drama = action + conflict. A play (film, tv drama, or sit-com) must have action. It must have conflict.
  • What is dramatic? i.e. A police chase of a criminal with stolen goods. The Central character struggles to achieve a goal. The goal requires some effort; but there are obstacles. The chief obstacle is usually another character.
  • Characters. As you know…a play must have characters (Aristotle “Poetics”). The main characters can be identified as the Protagonist or the Antagonist.
  • Conflict. A play must have conflict. There are three types of Conflict:
  • Dramatic Struggle – usually not just one struggle, but several struggles. The plot building.
  • Beginning, Middle and End – A play is a story; and, every story must have a beginning, middle and end.
  • The Point of Attack – “the point of attack” is where the plot starts. Not always at the beginning of the play.
  • The Inciting Incident – upsets the balance. The point at which the fun and excitement of the play really begins. Might also be identified as the “rising action” of the play.
  • Reversal – also called Dramatic Irony – outcome is directly opposite of what the protagonist (or other character’s) are expecting. The plot twists and goes in a different direction. (When Oedipus realizes who he really is)
  • Crisis and Climax – this is when the action and conflict reaches its’ greatest intensity.
  • Resolution (The Denouement) – The conflict is resolved. There is a return to the status quo…a return to balance.

  • The Protagonist is usually the first to act (the criminal with the stolen goods). The will of the protagonist sustains the dramatic action of the play.
  • The Antagonist is simply the character (the policeman) who’s will is opposed to the will of the protagonist. The antagonist has the most to lose, if the protagonist is successful (gets away with the stolen goods).

1.Physical Conflict – one character vs. another character

2.Metaphysical Conflict – character vs. circumstances (environment, nature, destiny)

3.Psychological Conflict – character vs. character (themselves)

*Every play will have at least one of these conflicts. Many plays have more than one conflict…some may have all three conflicts. It is important to identify which conflict is the dominant conflict.

  • The Beginning is where the protagonist is presented with a problem.
  • The Middle is where the protagonist acts in response to the problem.
  • The End is the end of the protagonist struggle, leading to the resolution.
  • Each of the components of “What’s In A Play” (above), plus the components of Aristotle’s “Poetics” (plot, character, thought, language, music and spectacle) are essential benchmarks to analyzing and breaking down the elements in the plays that you will be reading. Many of the elements overlap, and connect to each other.


TERMS: actor, anagnorisis, antistrophe, audience, auditorium, catharsis, dialogue, Dionysus, dithyramb, hamartia, hubris, mask, mimesis, music, mythos, orchestra, parados, pathos, peripeteia, plot, reversal, satyr, skene, soliloquy, spectators, strophe, theatron, tragedy, tragic hero, tragôdia

Aristotle on Tragedy

Definition: Tragedy depicts the downfall of a noble hero or heroine, usually through some combination of hubris, fate, and the will of the gods. The tragic hero’s powerful wish to achieve some goal inevitably encounters limits, usually those of human frailty (flaws in reason, hubris, society), the gods (through oracles, prophets, fate), or nature. Aristotle says that the tragic hero should have a flaw and/or make some mistake (hamartia). The hero need not die at the end, but he/she must undergo a change in fortune. In addition, the tragic hero may achieve some revelation or recognition (anagnorisis–“knowing again” or “knowing back” or “knowing throughout” ) about human fate, destiny, and the will of the gods. Aristotle quite nicely terms this sort of recognition “a change from ignorance to awareness of a bond of love or hate.”

I. Definition of Tragedy

(From the Poetics of Aristotle [384-322 BC])

“Tragedy, then, is a process of imitating an action which has serious implications, is complete, and possesses magnitude; by means of language which has been made sensuously attractive, with each of its varieties found separately in the parts; enacted by the persons themselves and not presented through narrative; through a course of pity and fear completing the purification (catharsis[*], sometimes translated “purgation”) of such emotions.”

a) “imitation” (mimesis)[*]: Contrary to Plato, Aristotle asserts that the artist does not just copy the shifting appearances of the world, but rather imitates or represents Reality itself, and gives form and meaning to that Reality. In so doing, the artist gives shape to the universal, not the accidental. Poetry, Aristotle says, is “a more philosophical and serious business than history; for poetry speaks more of universals, history of particulars.”

b) “an action with serious implications”: serious in the sense that it best raises and purifies pity and fear; serious in a moral, psychological, and social sense.

c) “complete and possesses magnitude”: not just a series of episodes, but a whole with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The idea of imitation is important here; the artist does not just slavishly copy everything related to an action, but selects (represents) only those aspects which give form to universal truths.

d) “language sensuously attractive…in the parts”: language must be appropriate for each part of the play: choruses are in a different meter and rhythm and more melodious than spoken parts.

e) tragedy (as opposed to epic) relies on an enactment (dramatic performance), not on “narrative” (the author telling a story).

f) “purification” (catharsis): tragedy first raises (it does not create) the emotions of pity and fear, then purifies or purges them. Whether Aristotle means to say that this purification takes place only within the action of the play, or whether he thinks that the audience also undergoes a cathartic experience, is still hotly debated. One scholar, Gerald Else, says that tragedy purifies “whatever is ‘filthy’ or ‘polluted’ in the pathos, the tragic act” (98). Others say that the play arouses emotions of pity and fear in the spectator and then purifies them (reduces them to beneficent order and proportion) or purges them (expels them from his/her emotional system).

II. The Tragic Hero

The tragic hero is “a [great] man who is neither a paragon of virtue and justice nor undergoes the change to misfortune through any real badness or wickedness but because of some mistake.”

a) a great man: “one of those who stand in great repute and prosperity, like Oedipus and Thyestes: conspicuous men from families of that kind.” The hero is neither a villain nor a model of perfection but is basically good and decent.

b) “mistake” (hamartia): This Greek word, which Aristotle uses only once in the Poetics, has also been translated as “flaw” or as “error.” The great man falls through–though not entirely because of–some weakness of character, some moral blindness, or error. We should note that the gods also are in some sense responsible for the hero’s fall.

III. Plot

Aristotle distinguished six elements of tragedy: “plot, characters, verbal expression, thought, visual adornment, and song-composition.” Of these, PLOT is the most important. The best tragic plot is single and complex, rather than double (“with opposite endings for good and bad”–a characteristic of comedy in which the good are rewarded and the wicked punished). All plots have some pathos (suffering), but a complex plot includes reversal and recognition.

a) “reversal” (peripeteia): occurs when a situation seems to developing in one direction, then suddenly “reverses” to another. For example, when Oedipus first hears of the death of Polybus (his supposed father), the news at first seems good, but then is revealed to be disastrous.

b) “recognition” (anagnorisis or “knowing again” or “knowing back” or “knowing throughout” ): a change from ignorance to awareness of a bond of love or hate. For example, Oedipus kills his father in ignorance and then learns of his true relationship to the King of Thebes.

Recognition scenes in tragedy are of some horrible event or secret, while those in comedy usually reunite long-lost relatives or friends. A plot with tragic reversals and recognitions best arouses pity and fear.

c) “suffering” (pathos): Also translated as “a calamity,” the third element of plot is “a destructive or painful act.” The English words “sympathy,” “empathy,” and “apathy” (literally, absence of suffering) all stem from this Greek word.

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