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

Assignment 2

1250-1750 words (5-7 pages, double-spaced)

Due Dates: A younger brother or sister of yours is co-directing a high school production of a Shakespeare play, and comes to you for advice. In this assignment you will address a substantial piece of one of the plays we have read--a key scene*--and make your case in a well-constructed essay. You aim to "realize" the scene, to make it come alive as a dramatic entity, not just as poetry or words on a page. As before, your essay should respond to critical questions and suggestions, and should demonstrate your abilities as a reader and as a critical thinker.
  1. what does the scene do (in terms of character, plot, dramatic logic), and how does it fit into the play as a whole?

  2. at the level of language, how do you expect your players to resolve any difficult passages or problematic aspects? Explain, showing some of what you've learned in English 117A.

  3. what production details--issues of blocking, lighting, pacing, enunciation, costume, set design, etc.--will help construct a meaningful rendering of the scene?

  4. how does your close look at this scene contribute to our understanding of the play--its themes, plot, character development, etc.?
A small part of your paper must show you have carefully watched at least the BBC version of your scene, preferably this and another of the filmed renditions (I realize Comedy of Errors has not recently been made into a film). Consider discussing cuts that other directors make that you agree or disagree with (understand and explain why they cut or inverted what they did), and if appropriate, include a working script of your scene with cuts or switches indicated.

As before, begin by briefly indicating 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 give us some insights about the ways it works. Quickly walk us through the scene, commenting and highlighting as you go, and delve more deeply where indicated.

You aim to strike a balance between supporting your dramaturgical thesis and getting bogged down in minutiae of definitions, directions, plot summary, or academic wool-gathering; keep in mind, however, that your reader wants to know what insights your analysis furnishes 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 elsewhere in the play? As appropriate, make connections to other plays we have read, and other parts of this play.

Above all, your essay must promote a clear thesis, exhibit good organization, and feature solid development--it has to hang together as an essay. Proofread for grammar and spelling. Don't even think of getting involved in reading criticism or secondary sources; I am interested in your ideas, not in your digest of others' ideas, and I know you all have enough mental horsepower to do well on this exercise without recourse to stuffy critics.

* You may choose a substantial chunk of a longer scene, or group of short scenes, on instructor's approval.

Uploaded 5/22/2001.