John Stenzel
English 117A--Shakespeare: The Early Works
Spring 2001

Assignment 1

750-1250 words (3-5 pages, double-spaced, not including the paraphrase)
Due Friday, April 20, at beginning of class

In this assignment you will come to terms with a chunk of a play, and demonstrate your insights in a short, well-constructed essay. You will take a 15-30 line section, selected from Taming of the Shrew, Comedy of Errors, or Richard III, and address four main questions:

  1. what does it say? (what do the lines mean?)

  2. how does it fit into the play as a whole?

  3. how does it work at the level of language?

  4. how does your close look at this passage contribute to our understanding of the play?

To perform part 1), you will type out your selection accurately, with triple-spacing, and write in an accurate line-by-line paraphrase underneath. You may judiciously include very short parenthetical remarks here to show you understand particularly interesting puns or ironic significance, but your main object is to show the basic meaning of the passage. [Hint: The sooner you choose your passage and do this, the sooner you can buttonhole me or Kate someplace and make sure you understand what's going on.] Please note that this does not count toward the 3-5 page total.

Your actual 3-5-page essay begins with part 2), as you briefly indicate what the passage does--how it fits into the play as a whole (with respect to plot, character, theme, dramatic effect, and/or image, as appropriate)--and discuss how it works at the level of language. Quickly walk us through the passage, commenting and highlighting as you go, and delve more deeply where indicated. What insights does your analysis furnish into the themes, images, and patterns the play presents? Is this a pivotal moment in the play for some reason? Does it tell us something particularly significant about a character or event or interaction? If you like, you may deftly make connections to other plays, but you must maintain your focus on the passage.

Above all, your essay must be coherent, promote a clear thesis, and feature solid development--it has to hang together as an essay. Proofread for grammar and spelling You may address issues of staging or acting, but your paper must focus at some length on Shakespeare's use of language. Show you know what characters are saying and doing (not to mention how they're saying or doing), and enjoy the opportunity to share and refine your insights.

Uploaded 4/9/2001.