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What You Will



One of Shakespeare’s comedies offers two titles: Twelfth Night, or What You Will. The separate segments of the title emphasize the choice audiences and actors have to select and relish in a particular story. In the play, Viola dresses as a young man named Cesario, and in most of Shakespeare’s works, particularly his comedies, identity itself is “what you will.” In the spirit of choosing for yourself what works best for your intellectual and creative talents, this assignment gives you the space to determine what that assignment looks like and when you submit it. Below, I list some possibilities for fulfilling the task, but you should also feel free chart your own path, consulting with me if you are unsure whether it would meet the broad parameters of the assignment.



You may submit the assignment at any point before April 25th, our last class meeting. I advise you to seriously examine your semester schedule to ensure that you give yourself ample time to complete the assignment. You may want to complete it early in the semester before the onslaught of other class essays and midterms. You may, on the other hand, wish to work on it incrementally throughout the spring. Whichever route you select, you should recall that you will be graded on intention (see below).



Although the assignment title is playful, you should not then think that I take this assignment lightly. Instead, in giving you agency to work/interpret/recreate Shakespeare how you wish, I expect in return that you think carefully about the project. The goal, in other words, is intentionality, or that you show me that you’ve thought carefully about the project and fulfilled it to the best of your ability. You will also write a one-page, double-spaced reflection essay on the assignment. I will grade you using the following rubric:

  • Intentionality 40%—Is it clear that you put time and thought into the project? Did you prepare for the project by understanding the text(s) carefully? Did you offer a new perspective/reading/insight into the text(s)?

  • Polish 40%—Is it clear that you practiced/prepared for the project thoroughly? If a performance, did you think through all the different pieces and rehearse? If a creative reinterpretation, is it clear that you understood the text under recreation? If a visual object, has it been carefully reproduced?

  • Reflection Essay 20%—Accompanying your project should be a one-page roadmap through it. You should walk us through your decisions on the project, including what elements you decided to emphasize and why. You should think of this reflection essay as your chance to walk us through some of the pieces of your work that may not be immediately visible and to describe why you choose to take this particular route.  


Student Example

For just one example, see Mason Zeagler’s fabulous breakdown of Twelfth Night as one way in which you might conceive of this type of project:


Suggested Options

What follows are only suggestions, and you should feel that you have the liberty to bring your own interpretative skills to the assignment using your strengths or interests.


  1. Cartographic Representation—Create a detailed map of Shakespeare’s London, or the location of Shakespeare’s play, highlighting not just cities but also significant places within Shakespeare’s life or the plays themselves.

  2. Digital Gallery—Bring together images (both from Shakespeare’s day and throughout history) that resonate with a particular play or set of plays. Be sure to provide context for each image.

  3. An Annotated Bibliography—Of current criticism, and for this route I would suggest that you focus on just one play or one particular topic in Shakespeare. For example, if you’re interested in philosophy, you could summarize five-seven sources that treat of Shakespeare’s philosophical thought.

  4. A Graphic Novel—One that recreates scenes from Shakespeare, though not necessarily from a single play. You could do an in-depth graphic paneling of one act in a drama or broaden this out to include multiple characters/plays.

  5. A Lesson Plan—If you’re into teaching, you could design your own class session on Shakespeare, including materials you would introduce to students and how you would structure your time in class. As someone who lesson plans all the time, you should come talk to me about how to approach this.

  6. A Performance—You can opt to present a passage to the class as a whole, or to me in my office. Here you would want to think carefully about characterization, gesture, and delivery.

  7. An Adaptation—Write your own abbreviated adaptation of a Shakespearean play. Redesign a production in a new setting or with new characters.

  8. A Film Analysis—In 4-5 pages, analyze a Shakespearean film adaptation, including an argument on where the film succeeds and where it strays from Shakespeare’s play.

  9. An Artistic Envisioning—Recreate a scene or scenes visually (painting, collage, graphic art, what you will).

  10. Cooking Shakespeare—Recreate an early modern recipe and bring it to class to share. There are many online resources for early modern recipes, including Alyssa Connell and Marissa Nicosia’s Cooking in the Archives.

  11. Character History—Invent a backstory to a Shakespearean character. What was Hamlet like in college? What hobbies did Rosalind have before her father was exiled? How did Macbeth woo Lady Macbeth?

  12. Live Tweet—Letting us know beforehand, live tweet one class session using the hashtag ShaxVerse. Be sure to not use your peers’ names unless they give you permission.

  13. Writing Technologies—Remake a quarto of a Shakespearean play using cross-stitching for the binding and remaking the title-page and other paratextual materials.

  14. Diorama—I doubt anyone will choose this option, but I’ve always wanted to bring dioramas back into fashion.

  15. What You Will—As I mention above, these are just a few options, and I hope to hear from you what else you might think will work for this type of assignment. Most importantly, I want you to have fun with it.

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