Scene Analysis

You will read three plays on your own this semester:

  1. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  2. The Taming of the Shrew OR The Merchant of Venice
  3. Richard III OR Henry V

I will post study guides for each of these plays on my website.

For each of these plays, you will select one scene and write a one to two page (250-600 words) paper analyzing how it functions dramatically by looking closely at its language, imagery, and structure.

Your paper should address both how the scene itself works and how it relates to the play as a whole:

How does the scene function?
What is the relationship between lines, speeches, interchanges, and the scene as a whole? How does the scene organize the multiple motifs, themes, and implications it contains? Does it focus on a single concern or does it move in divergent directions? If the latter, what are the implications of the digressions? How do set rhetorical techniques (rhyming, irony, figuration, and so on) create dramatic effects? Is there a sense of an audience—if so, how is the audience addressed, implicated, or involved (you might consider forms such as asides and soliloquies)?

How does the scene relate to the overall structure of the play?
How does its structure and tone parallel or contrast with the scenes around it? Does it contain echoings of language, characters, and situations (enhanced perhaps by doubling) from other scenes in the play?

Naturally, I do not expect you to address every one of these questions. I list them to provide you with a set of critical inquiries from which you can select one or a few, and to which you can add as many of your own as you wish.

Do not let your paper become a mere list of features and techniques, instead link whatever features and techniques you identify to the overall effect of the scene. Avoid plot summary and paraphrase; you can assume I already know what happens in the scene.

Make your prose as clear and concise as possible. Don’t waste my time and yours trying to sound impressive. Organize your paper around a thesis, a claim about how the scene works. A good thesis will address the full complexity of the scene you select.

Since your only source for this essay will be your chosen scene, you do not need a Works Cited page. You should, however, use MLA style for formatting your document. (See: Document Format, Anatomy of a Citation, and How to Quote Shakespeare.)

Page Last Updated: 14 May 2011