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English 244, Spring, 2020

Assignments and Updates

See also:

Main Course page


This is the Assignments and Updates Page. All assignments, and all updates to earlier assignments, will be posted here, beginning with the most recent first.

Monday, April 13

Read (Watch): A Second Version of 12th Night. For that play, click here. The play you want to watch is at the top of the page--you'll see a pic of two people in sailors' uniforms.

Write: After watching the production, compare/contrast elements what you see and what happens in the first scenes and in the final act. Use what you are learning about the Elements of drama! (See Blackboard )

Wednesday, April 8

Reading: Continue reading/watching Twelfth Night, Acts 4 and 5.

Writing: NOT quite the same assignment as last time. Two things: First, again I want you to find a speech from each of the two acts--just one from each--but I want it to be one that you think is the one, if you were an actor, that you'd like most to speak.

Second, The Point of Maximum Chaos! I will have described that to you as the the point where things seem closest to flying apart and leading to the complete wreck of the whole social order. I want you to identify a scene that seems to you to be such a scene--something that threatens the very things that comedies so often end in: a restoration of order, of civility, of happiness.

IN EXPLANATION OF The Point of Maximum Chaos

Thematic structure in Twelfth Night .

Most narratives and plays share an underlying three-part abstract structure which moves from Order, to Disorder, to Reorder. They thus begin by representing a scene of relatively coherent (though also in some way unstable) social Order, they then stage a series of crises that threaten to reduce their whole ordered world to a state of complete Disorder, and then they finally enact some sort of experience which either establishes or at least predicts some new social structure: Re-Order. The initial Order is always something false or misleading (that’s why it is unstable), though the particular nature of what’s wrong will be different in different plays. The Disorder that follows will always be a confusion caused by the disintegration of the false order; generally a problem will have arisen that puts pressure on the opening order in such a way as to reveal its inherent inadequacy. Then, and perhaps not surprisingly, the Re-Order which concludes the story will respond to the confusion by creating a new ordering principle. In doing so, it will also restructure (somehow) the society’s values so as to leave us at the narrative’s end with a social order ostensibly stronger, somehow better (if not perfect) than that with which we began.

Twelfth Night is no exception to this rule, though it does mix things up by Act I, scene2’s shipwreck—a form of complete disorder, but only for Viola and Sebastian. But that is only a kind of opening crack in the world, showing that life and death are not guaranteed and can end at any second—which is, in fact, as scary as a thing can be (as our present life in a world of the Covid-19 virus is now reminding us). Indeed, that’s why we need love in our lives—without love and its partner sexuality—the human race would have died out long ago. Every one of us has been born, after all!

But the world the twins arrive at—Illyria—while an ordinary world, with lovers and servants and drunks and a number of very helpful passers-by who help first Viola and then Sebastian—is also a world askew. Toby is a special instance of disorder, with Sir Andrew and Maria adding to a mix that grows increasingly disruptive/disordered as they plan and carry out against Malvolio a trick that ends up being truly harmful and cruel. But that isn’t the only disorder. How about the “duel” set to make fun of Sir Andrew and Cesario/Viola? That, too, is mean, as in fact is the way Sir Toby both makes fun of and steals from Sir Andrew, his ostensible friend. And then there is that run in Antonio has with Orsino’s men, and is taken prisoner.

One question that can help clarify all of this is simply: Of all the disorders you can see in acts 4 and 5, what is the MOST disordering of them all? And why? There is quite a competition for the point of Maximum Disorder in the play—once you’ve read the whole thing, decide which Disorder seems most important to you and write an argument that explains why your selection is more fitting than what you might take as the Second most disordered moment.

So in effect: decide on a particularly disordered moments, describe it, and then explain how/why it is the most disordered …. (Not to worry, there is no single right answer!)


Monday, April 6

Reading: First, the course description and syllabus

(online at

We will have a short quiz on that reading. Continue reading Twelfth Night--acts 2 and 3.

Then read, if you haven't already, this piece on Confirmation Bias

Writing: Same assignment as last time, except I want you to pick a passage from each of the two acts, and again write about them. This time explain again why you chose each of the passages. Maybe because they are funny (and if so, how?) or they are about "illusionary thinking," or something else you see.

We will plan on having an exercise with your picks on Wednesday, and we'll follow that with an explanation of what your speeches' functions are. Speeches don't just sit there; they have jobs to do in the play. Most of what we saw in Act 1 is there to inform the audience of who is who and what relationships they have to each other. They also characterize each of the speakers. And they also set up something that is going to happen later on. Thus Malvolio is presented to you as someone who is something of a killjoy. He is supposed to keep order in the Countess' house, and this makes him someone that the drunkards and Maria don't particularly like. And because they don't like him, they decide to "gull" him--which just means play a trick on him. Which they do indeed do--a trick that turns out to be not just funny but mean as well.

See you Monday....

Wed April 1


And second: Twelfth Night: Act 1. You can get a paperback of the play, too, if that is more comfortable for you to read. They are available at Amazon, UBook and bookstores (almost) everywhere (though NOT in the Textbook Section of the UW Bookstore--check upstairs). The online URL, again, is:

I've asked you already to read the play summary; now I ask for you to work your way through the first part of the text. It is confusing--you will be surprised when you see it performed that it is clearer than you think! But the words are sometimes old fashioned, and scene two has a lot of jokes--which use Shakespearean slang, and is therefore, again, hard to read.

But that's fine--just keep going. Get the main plot and we'll talk about it next week. (Don't be shy about rereading the plot summary--it will help you understand the text. The plot summary is at:

Writing: Again, a page: this time I just want you to find ten lines you like, for any reason at all!, and write them out (or cut and paste). Then give me three or four sentences that explain why you selected THESE particular lines.... (You don't have to have "good" reasons--I just want to know YOUR reasons--which will help me understand what level of interest and of facility with Shakespearean language you have.) Typed if you can, handwritten if you can't.