Twelfth Night

Status shift

‘Twelfth Night’ refers to the twelfth night after Christmas. a celebration known as ‘Epiphany Eve.’ The holiday is associated with disguise, misrule, and the idea of turning the world and societal order on its head for one night. On this night, a person from a lower social status could be a king, and vice versa. Anything was possible.

In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare explores this concept in many ways, such as servant Malvolio believing he could be countess Olivia’s romantic partner and higher status characters falling in love with servant characters.

Select one scene in the play and, as a creative writing exercise, flip the status of the characters. What might happen? Follow these steps:

  1. Select a scene from Twelfth Night. What happens in this scene?
  2. Which characters are in this scene?
  3. What is the status and roles of the characters in this scene? Write down next to each character’s name whether they are low status, high status, or somewhere in between. Write down their roles, ie. Head of the household, servant, etc.
  4. Flip the characters’ status and roles. For example, countess Olivia may become Olivia the servant, Malvolio may become a Duke, and so on.
  5. Rewrite the scene, taking into account the change of character status and roles. You don’t need to stick to Shakespeare’s plot – see how the changes impact what happens in the story.