Discussion Questions for “She’s the Man”

Shakespeare’s plays are known for their soliloquies, long one-character speeches often delivered as “asides” where the character addresses the audience directly. This style of dialogue is not as popular now as it was in Shakespeare’s time, but it served the useful function of letting an audience know what a character is thinking and feeling. Below, I’ve provided a link to a YouTube video from a modern musical production of Twelfth Night. This short scene presents a song that updates Viola’s most famous soliloquy, where she describes her feelings about recognizing that Olivia is falling in love with her even as Viola herself is falling in love with Orsino (Duke). “She’s the Man” doesn’t have any version of this soliloquy. How does the movie instead relay this internal information about Viola’s thoughts and feelings?

Link to Viola’s Soliloquy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pedxjm0UckU

Both Twelfth Night and “She’s the Man” employ a lot of “dramatic irony,” where the audience knows things that one or more of the characters in the scene don’t know. This is favorite theatrical convention of Shakespeare’s and one that comedy writers still love to use today. Choosing a scene in the movie that uses dramatic irony, explain how our knowledge of the secret affects our understanding of the characters. Why does dramatic irony work so well in comedy?

Our first movie in this series, “10 Things I Hate About You” was inspired by The Taming of the Shrew, often considered one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays” because of its negative attitudes towards women and their proper place in a marriage. Twelfth Night is not generally considered a “problem play” for its portrayal of women or gender roles. But updated film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays make many changes, great and small. Compare and contrast “10 Things” to “She’s the Man” in terms of how they portray female characters.

In “She’s the Man,” Duke Orsina has real affection for his friend ‘Sebastian’ and he’s obviously very attracted to Viola as herself, so why does Duke struggle so much with accepting his love for Viola once the truth is revealed? Shakespeare didn’t think his audience would have a problem with this aspect. In fact, Duke’s anxiety is wholly an invention of the film. Why does the movie make Duke wrestle with this issue?

Published by Chuck Caruso

writer of dark fiction (crime, horror & western noir), literary & textual scholar (american gothic, noir, po-co, sf), and cultural critic

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