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Introduction to Shakespeare I
 

Paper Topics

In each paper, you will quote from the play and/or other required sources to support your points. Choose two of the following topics upon which to write your two 3-5 page papers for this class. Each paper should focus on a different play. Your papers should be typed using double-spaced lines and should follow standard MLA format. Please e-mail them to me with the class prefix and number, class section number, and assignment title in the subject line of your e-mail. The due dates will be on or around 1 October 2013 and 1 December 2013.

                

Choose one of the plays and analyze it, writing an expository essay that explains how Shakespeare uses the elements of literature to communicate a theme to the audience. The definition of theme, for this purpose, is the moral or lesson that audiences can apply to their own lives.  It should be able to be stated in a complete sentence and not make direct reference to the play or its components. The elements of drama are characters, plot, setting, stage directions, figurative language, etc..

Choose one of the plays and research its original source. Please explain how Shakespeare's version differs from the original, how the changes strengthen or weaken the play, and whether those changes change the play's theme. 

Choose two of the plays and compare them, explaining each of their themes, discussing their literary elements, and arguing that knowing about one of the plays increases your appreciation and understanding of the other.
Choose one or two of the plays and discuss the relationship between the aristocracy and the lower class(es) in them. What messages about class would be communicated to Shakespeare's original audience and how are these messages understood or misunderstood by contemporary American audiences? 
Choose one of the plays and watch at least two different versions of it, either in live theatre or on film (or both).  Please comment on their differences and how the director's choices change one's understanding of the characters, plot, or theme.
Choose one or two of the plays and discuss the question of personal identity in it or them.  You can focus on one or two of the following questions: is the mutability and/or constancy of personal identity important in the drama? Are there any societal restrictions that mediate or legislate a behavioral norm? Under what circumstances is deviation from this norm possible or desirable? Who defines those circumstances? Are there any significant changes or transformations in behavior, individual understanding, or societal standards by the end of the play?
Choose two plays and compare and contrast the treatment of and relationship between love, sexuality, and procreation in them. You might focus your essay around the following questions: Does the play foreground a definition of "normal" sexual behavior? How and why are these standards of normalcy enforced? To what extent do secular laws, religion, and cultural standards shape the attitudes and conduct of the characters? What are the resulting differences and similarities in the views and behavior of the male and female characters? From your analysis do you conclude that traditional standards of sexual normalcy are reinforced or subverted through the course of the play?
Choose one or two books and read Barbara Oakley's book Evil Genes and then discuss how well the villains (and maybe a good guy or heroine) of the play/s support Professor Oakley's ideas on the genetic influence upon/creation of mental disorders (like borderline personality disorder). Perhaps consult the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th edition, the DSM-IV) to further pin down symptoms and behaviors of specific disorders. What disorders do the characters seem to have? How close do their behaviors comply with the behaviors covered in Evil Genes or the DSM-VI?  To what extent does the possibility of a disorder do to the level of the character's culpability. What does knowing how well the characters demonstrate or do not demonstrate 'real' mental conditions do to an audience's understanding of the character, the plot, and/or the theme?
Choose two plays and compare and contrast the treatment of and relationship between men and women--and feminist ideology. You might focus your essay around the following questions: Does the play foreground a definition of "normal" gender behavior? How and why are these standards of normalcy enforced? To what extent do secular laws, religion, and cultural standards shape the attitudes and conduct of the characters? What are the resulting differences and similarities in the views and behavior of the male and female characters? From your analysis do you conclude that traditional standards of gender behaviors are reinforced or subverted through the course of the play, i.e. does the play/do the plays advocate gender equality?
Choose one play and compare and contrast it--or elements of it--to a modern film, producing a 5-minute (or so) video for YouTube that analyzes the similarities and their significances. In this vide you should (at a minimum) quote the Shakespearean play at least twice, the modern film at least twice, and two pieces of critical research on the play.  You may approach the video from a particular point of view, like ThugNotes or The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, for example.
 

Unless otherwise specified, these papers should, of course, have clearly stated thesis statements in their first paragraph and comply to the standards given in IVCC's  The Style Book.  Papers will be given letter grades that will be converted to percentage points before the final semester grade is calculated, and they will be evaluated on audience, grammar, organization, presentation, spelling, and style as well as on content.

Plays to choose from:

Unit One

 

 

 

  Romeo and Juliet
    A Midsummer Night's Dream
    Richard III
    Hamlet
    Much Ado About Nothing
     
     

Unit Two

   
     
    Othello
    The Taming of the Shrew
    All's Well That Ends Well
    The Winter's Tale
    Twelfth Night

Several of these paper topics are modified from: http://wiki.english.ucsb.edu/index.php/Late_Shakespeare_Paper_Topics

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Contact Kimberly M. Radek, the instructor of Introduction to Shakespeare I, at Kimberly_Radek@ivcc.edu

This page was last updated on 16 August 2013. Copyright Kimberly M. Radek, 2008.