1. Discussion about what the children know about the play so far i.e. the characters, plot, themes etc. Ask the children to think about the characters and their importance in society. Discuss Elizabethan values in terms of society and status, for example, how men were more important than women but how a woman of Olivia’s status would be more important than Malvolio even though he is a man. Explain that we will come back to this later.
2. A good physical warm-up game to be played such as cat and mouse. This introduces the idea of Maria and the others trapping Malvolio and catching him out. This will be useful later in the lesson.
3. In groups of five, the children are given a character each with a brief description of the character and their status. Ask the children to prepare a photograph style picture using different levels to show the differing statuses of the characters. Encourage the children to discuss this and to be ready with justification for their choices at the end.
4. Show these to the class and lead a discussion about status in Elizabethan England and how this is reflected in these characters. Children are to justify why they have chosen certain levels and positions.
5. Children to use given narration to tell the main elements of the story. In groups, the children are given a card with a part of the story to narrate. One child, in each group, should narrate the story while the rest use Chinese Mime technique to show the events. Allow time to practise this then show to the class in the given order. Discuss these main events and answer any questions the children may have.
6. Pastiche technique. Ask the children to walk around the room in different Malvolio styles which reflect his change in character as the play progresses. At the beginning. He is pompous and annoying. Ask the children how they could reflect this in their walk, facial expression etc. as they walk around the room. In pairs, children to label themselves A and B. All the A’s are to start walking around the room as Malvolio and their partners are to observe. At a given signal, the B’s must start following their partners, copying the walking style as accurately as possible. The A’s are then to come to the side and observe their partners copying their walk. This is Pastiche and a technique used by actors when they are trying to emulate a certain character. Great fun.
7. Repeat the activity with the B’s leading and A’s following. This time, walk like Malvolio once he believes Olivia is in love with him!
8. Malvolio fashion parade! Children to volunteer to be part of a cat walk competition for the most affected Malvolio. Children are given yellow socks and encouraged to be as flamboyant as possible during their performance. The rest of the class to vote who is the best Malvolio and to justify their reasons for their choices.
9. Finish with a discussion about how Shakespeare, in a way, challenges the Elizabethan values concerning position and status by making Maria, a servant, the most intelligent and clever character in the play.
Ideas for further activities.
1. Hot seat some of the characters to explore their feelings and motivations.
2. TIR (Teacher in Role) activity. Jeremy Kyle – ‘My friends betrayed me!’ Malovolio is the main gest on the show. He describes what happened to him and how he feels about this. The teacher will lead the questioning to encourage the actor to explore Malvolio’s character in more detail. Ask for other volunteers to play Maria, Sir Andrew and Sir Toby Belch. Bring them onto the stage one at a time and ask them to give reasons for their behaviour. Allow questions and comments from the audience.
3. Mask – allow the children time to look at the trellis masks then ask them to choose one which they think might look like one of the characters from the play. Discuss the basic conventions of mask then ask the children, in groups, to prepare a short mask piece reflecting a small chosen element of the story, for example, Maria dropping the letter and Malvolio finding it!