Essay 2

Write a List of 7 Shakespearean Strategies

Based on your reading this semester, come up with a list of 7 things that Shakespeare’s plays tend to do. These “things” may be theatrical or rhetorical devices, language patterns, methods of characterization, construction of scenes, and so on. Then provide an explication or description of each Shakespearean strategy on your list, along with an example or examples, including direct quotations. (A good format for this would be a list of bullet points, each followed by a description in paragraph form.)

Do not waste time filling paper with observations that, though technically valid, do little to explain how Shakespeare’s plays actually work. For example: “Shakespeare’s plays have lots of iambic pentameter,” while true, is not particularly useful or illuminating information. You might, however, ask yourself, In what circumstances does Shakespeare switch from iambic pentameter to prose and back again? When, if ever, do other verse forms appear? What effect (or effects) does this create? Can you find any kind of pattern? Be as specific as possible.

Avoid simply reproducing ideas introduced in lecture. For instance, you will not get much credit for saying that Shakespeare’s plays use rhymed couplets to generate a sense of closure for a speech or scene. However, if you find other effects of couplets, or if you feel that your observation goes beyond what was said in lecture, then by all means include your discovery in your list.

There is no specified length for this paper. Some of your observations may be easy to set out in a few concise sentences; others may require more explication. Try to use examples from all the plays you’ve read this semester. As usual, the paper should be double-spaced, paginated, spell-checked, and proofread.

Here is just one example of what you might do:

  • Shakespearean comedies tend to isolate one character from the festivities and rejoicing at the end of the play. This character may simply not appear in the final act at all (like Shylock in The Merchant of Venice), or he (this figure is typically male) may disturb the happy conclusion with threats (like Malvolio in Twelfth Night: “I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you!” [5.1.371] ). Shakespeare goes to some effort to give this character a measure of dignity and a legitimate grievance, so that the audience can seldom feel entirely comfortable about his exclusion. The isolated character serves as a scapegoat; he is blamed for the play’s conflicts and uneasiness, and then banished. His exclusion makes the happy ending both possible and problematic.

You do not need a Works Cited page for this essay. You should, however, use MLA style for formatting your document. (See MLA Style: Document Format, Anatomy of a Citation, and How to Quote Shakespeare.)


Page Last Updated: 14 May 2011