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    SUBJECTS — Drama/England;
    SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — RomanticRelationships; Brothers;
    MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Trustworthiness;Fairness.

    Age: 10+; MPAA Rating -- PG-13; Comedy; 1993, 110 minutes; Color; Available from Amazon.com.

    Description:     Shakespeare's delightful piece of fluff about two sets of lovers has been made into a fast paced and beautifully presented movie. Some children ages 10 - 15 will want to watch this film many times.

    Benefits of the Movie:     This is an excellent introduction to Shakespeare. The acting is so strong and the direction so clear that the meaning of most of the antique expressions needs no explanation. It is charming and funny.

    This film is a definite vocabulary builder. If a child likes the movie, sit with him or her as they watch it again. Have with you one of the annotated editions of the play with explanations of the antique phrases set out in the margin or on a page facing the text. Define the words that your child may not know. One session can increase passive vocabulary by about ten words.

    Possible Problems:    MINOR. There is some alcohol use and carousing. We are shown a few very brief glimpses of private parts of the human anatomy when the household is bathing before the first night's festivities. The subplot with Dogberry and Verges is overacted and detracts from the other excellent performances.

    Parenting Points:     Ask and help your child to answer the Quick Discussion Question. If your child likes the movie and wants to see it more than once sit with him or her and help define some of the words used in the play. See Building Vocabulary.


Benefits of the Movie
Possible Problems
Parenting Points
Selected Awards & Cast
Helpful Background
Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)
Bridges to Reading
Links to the Internet
Assignments, Projects & Activities

WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students' minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film. Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM's Movies as Literature Homework Project.

QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION:   During the first part of the play, why were Beatrice and Benedick always saying unpleasant things to each other?

Suggested Response: Sometimes couples who love each other are afraid of the strength of their feelings. To cover up for this fear they fight and bicker.

    Selected Awards, Cast and Director:

      Selected Awards:  1993 Cannes Film Festival Nominations: Best Film; 1994 Golden Globe Awards Nominations: Best Film/Musical/Comedy; 1994 Independent Spirit Awards Nominations: Best Actress (Thompson); Best Film.

      Featured Actors:  Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Robert Sean Leonard, Kate Beckinsale, Denzel Washington, Keanu Reeves, Michael Keaton.

      Director:  Kenneth Branagh.

    Helpful Background:

    The Helpful Background section of the Learning Guide to "Twelfth Night" contains a brief discussion of Shakespeare and his comedies.

    Deception is used for both good and evil in this play. Don Pedro and his friends show Beatrice and Benedick that they love each other with a charming ruse. But Don John uses deception to cause Claudio to doubt Hero's virtue. To remove the stain from her honor, Hero's family deceives Claudio and Don Pedro into believing that Hero is dead.

    This is a comedy and therefore the deceptions turn out for the best. In Shakespeare's tragedies the deceptions, even though well intentioned, are sometimes fatal, see Romeo and Juliet. For another well-intentioned deception that ends in tragedy, see the brilliant antiwar film A Midnight Clear.

    There are several references in the play to Greek and Roman mythology.

    Harpies had the heads of old women and the bodies of birds. They were foul smelling creatures. Their feathers served as armor and could not be pierced. They could fly as fast as the wind. They would pursue people, snatch them up, and carry them to their deaths in the underworld.

    Venus is the Roman goddess of love and beauty. Venus was the mother of Cupid, the god of love.

    Diana was the beautiful Roman Goddess of the moon and the hunt.

For English Language Arts classes, distribute TWM's Film Study Worksheet. Teachers can modify the worksheet to fit the needs of each class. Ask students to fill out the worksheet as they watch the film or at the film's end.

Click here for TWM's lesson plans to introduce cinematic and theatrical technique.

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

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    Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:


    1.  How could people as intelligent as Beatrice and Benedick be blind to their affection for each other and then permit themselves to be brought together by a transparent deception?

    2.  The relationship of Hero and Claudio is so frail that it can be destroyed by the deceptions arranged by Don John. What does this say about their relationship?

    3.  Do you think that Hero and Claudio are mature enough to make rational decisions about romance and marriage? At the beginning of the film, were Benedick and Beatrice, who are much more mature, making rational decisions about romance and marriage?

    4.  How does this film show the cruelty of love? Give at least two examples.

    5.  Can "love" be cruel or is that left to the lovers?

    6.  What does this play say about the danger of judging others, particularly a person with whom you are romantically involved?


    7.  Don John tries to harm Claudio as a way of hurting both Claudio and his brother, Don Pedro. Don Pedro has reconciled with Don John and has forgotten their former differences. Why does Don John repay Don Pedro so poorly? Is Don John just an evil person?

BUILDING VOCABULARY: auspicious, canker, conscience, conveyance, detractions, discourse, disdain, ditties, enigmatic or enigmatical, feign, harpy, impediment, melancholy, mirth, orthography, pernicious, perturbed or perturbation, redemption, satire, scorn, slander, suitor, wanton, woe, "hey nonny nonny," doth, betwixt, troth, epigram, fair (in the sense of beautiful), dotard.

Give us your feedback! Was the Guide helpful? If so, which sections were most helpful? Do you have any suggestions for improvement? Email us!

    Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)

    Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.


    (Be honest; Don't deceive, cheat or steal; Be reliable -- do what you say you'll do; Have the courage to do the right thing; Build a good reputation; Be loyal -- stand by your family, friends and country)

    1.  Evaluate the actions of Don John in relation to the "Respect" Pillar of Character.


    (Play by the rules; Take turns and share; Be open-minded; listen to others; Don't take advantage of others; Don't blame others carelessly)

    2.  Evaluate the actions of Claudio in relation to the "Fairness" Pillar of Character.

    3.  Is it fair to jump to conclusions about others without giving them a chance to explain?

Teachwithmovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner" and uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical principles.

Character Counts and the Six Pillars of Character are marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.

    Bridges to Reading: Read scenes from the play together. You can compete to see who reads various parts best or just enjoy the beautiful language. Suggested scenes to read are: Act One, Scene I; Act Two, Scene I beginning with the speech of Don Pedro: "The lady Beatrice hath a quarrel to you ..." (line 242); Act Two, Scene III beginning from the exit of Balthasar (line 82) to the end; Act Three, Scene I; Act Five, Scene II (beginning at the entrance of Beatrice). After you have read several scenes, see the movie again.

    Another excellent idea is to assign parts to several people in the class or the family or among friends and to read various scenes, or the entire play if you can. If your family has a literary bent, this would be especially fun at family gatherings. All of the aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers can participate.

    The screenplay, introduction and notes on the making of the movie by Kenneth Branagh were published under the title Much Ado About Nothing by W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1993. There are also annotated editions of Shakespeare's plays with explanations of the antique phrases set out in the margins or on a page facing the text. You may want to obtain a copy of one of these books from the library before reading scenes from the play.

MOVIES ON RELATED TOPICS: All other accessible Shakespeare, see the Drama section of the Subject Matter Index.

Are you concerned that time will be wasted if you are absent from class? Worry no more  .  .  .   Check out TeachWithMovies' Set-Up-the-Sub.

    Assignments, Projects and Activities:

    1. Assignments, Projects and Activities for Use With Any Film that is a Work of Fiction.

    2. Divide the class into groups of 10 or less and assign characters to each student to read. The readings can be among the group or with the rest of the class as audience. The smaller parts as a group can be assigned to one or two persons. Suggested scenes to read are described in the Bridges to Reading section.

    3. Ask students to list out each separate subplot, trace the lines of each subplot and describe how the subplot, if any, contributes to the play as a whole.

    4. Ask students to describe the use of deception in the play, to list the different deceptions and, for each, to describe how they relate to the play as a whole.

    5. Ask students to describe the moral message of the play. Another way to put this question is, "What was Shakespeare trying to tell us in this play about the way that people should or should not act?"

    6. Ask students to tell you what this play tells us about people. Another way to put this question is, "What was Shakespeare trying to tell us in this play about the way that people act?" Was this play just for fun?

    7. Ask the students to select a major character in the play and describe what was motivating him or her.

    8. Ask the students to write essays on appropriate questions set out in the Discussion Questions section above.


    Bibliography: In addition to websites which may be linked in the Guide and selected film reviews listed on the Movie Review Query Engine, the following resources were consulted in the preparation of this Learning Guide:

    • Much Ado About Nothing: Screenplay, Introduction, and Notes on the Making of the Movie by Kenneth Branagh, W.W. Norton, New York, 1993.

    Last updated December 16, 2009.

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