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Character Found Poems: Investigating Language in Twelfth Night

Teachers' Rating:
  11 ratings

Twelfth Night

September 2010
Jaime Wong teaches English at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, Sudbury, MA

Plays/Scenes Covered
Twelfth Night, 1.1-5
What's On for Today and Why

  The language that Shakespearean characters use is key to understanding their motivations, preoccupations, and desires. In this lesson, students will analyze and review the characters after reading Act 1 of Twelfth Night by creating a found poem from the character dialogue. Students will be able to identify, compare, and analyze key imagery and the kinds of language that the characters use.


This lesson will take 2 x 50 minute class periods.

What You Need

Folger edition of Twelfth Night
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts

Handout "Character Key Words and Phrases"

Handout:Character Key words and Phrases
What To Do


1. Ask students to choose (or assign), one of the following characters from Twelfth Night, Act 1: Duke Orsino, Viola, Sir Toby Belch, Maria, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Feste (Clown), Olivia, or Malvolio.


2. Explain the concept of a found poem: a poem composed of words and phrases that come from another text. Students will be creating a found poem on his/her chosen or assigned character.


3. Distribute the handout, "Character Key Words and Phrases". Have each student select and record 40-50 words from the dialogue of their chosen character. Encourage the students to find words or phrases that reveal something important about the nature of their characters.


4. Ask students to share the words/phrases they have selected  with the class and allow some discussion.


5. Building on the discussion, challenge students to narrow down their word choices to 20-25 words.


6. Have students organize the words they have left in order to create a draft of their found poem on the handout. Encourage them to structure the poem with a clear beginning, middle and end. They may change tense, possessives, and punctuation as necessary to allow the poem to make sense.


7. Choosing a partner with a different character, have students read their found poems out loud to one another to test for "sound quality".


8. After reading aloud, students may add up to three words to improve the flow of their poems.



1. Have students who worked on the same character group up.


2. Have students share their found poems with their group and discuss similarities. Have them identify any words or phrases that appear in several or all of their poems.


3. Have each group share one representative poem with the rest of the class.


4. After each group shares a poem, have students discuss what they learned about their character's personality based on his/her language. For example, which words did many of the group choose in their found poems? What do we know about his/her character based on word choices? Can the students identify the kind of language (slang, formal, etc) the character uses? Does this fit or not fit with the character's class and background?

How Did It Go?

Did the students identify key words and phrases to use in their found poems? Did they discuss conclusions they were able to make about their characters based on the language their characters used?

Application/Transfer Options

An alternative way to create found poems from the play would be to choose phrases that a character uses to describe him/herself, and phrases that othes use to describe that character. This would result in a more focused found poem portrait that would also be worth discussion.

Students could continue the lesson by creating an illumination of their found poem using Photostory or iMovie. They might also creat a mural or bulletin board display of actors who might play their character, or images that they now associate with their chosen character. Students could reference these visuals for the remainder of the play to explore how a character might change or stay constant.


If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.

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  Common Core State Standards

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